Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR)

Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR) Blog

Politics is in a mess. A new voting system is just part of the long term solution

A new voting system is central to UK electoral and political reform
We can have a better voting system than First Past the Post
We need a better balance between government, the people, political parties and elected members.
We need a form of Proportional Representation.

DPR Voting shows you how
Blog Topics

Omicron: 21 Dec 2021
The virus is highly infectious. The Prime Minister is holding his breath. From the start the debate has been:
To get to a 'post covid world' we need the vast majority of the population to have protection against the virus. We need to manage the rate of infection, maximising the number of people who get protection from the vaccination programme. If we do not slow the spread of the virus there could be a breakdown of public services, and unnecessary deaths.
Should we act in advance of having firm evidence about the new Omicron variant, and should we: -
1) Act hard and fast (3 weeks ago) to slow infection and prevent catastrophe .. or
2) Wait and see if catastrophe occurs
What will catrastrophe look like?
If the virus turns out to be no more lethal than a common cold, ie hardly anyone is incapacitated we could probably tough it out - we could get away with doing nothing.
If the virus is as infectious as the evidence we have suggests, and serious enough to put people in hospital, what will the impact on public services be of the large numbers of people in bed or self isolating.
The effect on the NHS is a matter of having both enough hospital beds and hospital staff to care for the patients. The NHS could be overwhelmed even without any fatalities, though fatalities would be much more likely in those circumstances. The same applies to other public services - Police, Public Transport, Distribution, even Bin collection. Public utilities might not be at immediate risk but could be vulnerable in the event of storms or severe weather.
The danger from such a catastrophe looks to far exceed the problems that could arise from a two or three week firebreak lockdown.

Omicron: 13 Dec 2021
In mid 2021, 18 months into the pandemic, we didn't adopt a policy capable of reducing the level of infection in the community.
We didn't have a reliable system to test people coming into the country or to quarantine them when necessary.
We didn't have enough genome analysis capacity to spot the inevitable new variant when it did arrive.
From then onwards, the Government gambled there would not be a new variant, that it would not be more harmful than the Delta variant, that the NHS could cope with the high level of infection, and that people would tolerate this, because it would mean that life and the economy would carry on more normally than otherwise would be the case.

The Government lost. We all lost. Because the odds were against us.

It was probable that there would be a new variant:
It's the nature of the virus.
Any significant new variant has to be more infectious than Delta - because if the variant was less infectious it wouldn't survive. The Government should know this.
Although vaccines protect us, they also mean that a variant able to evade our vaccines has a better chance of flourishing.
If Omicron is as infectious as has been indicated, the NHS will be overwhelmed. All these cases are going to arise in a very short period. It will be bad here, but I fear it will be worse elsewhere in the world.

We need to attack the virus wherever it is. That means we need to get vaccines out to the rest of the world to avoid the conditions where a new variant can be created. If we vaccinate the world and suppress this virus, we will all benefit. We need to save lives and economies, worldwide.

Research priority? I assume we will need a new vaccine to give 'one shot' immunity for the latest variant (as long as there is a new variant) and this should be given priority and funding.

In the UK we need increased genome surveillance, and the capability of preventing infectious people, untested and unquarantined, spreading out from hot spot areas, especially where hot spot areas are separated by natural borders.

Our unstable democracy (May 2021)

FPTP leads to two large political parties, and smaller parties are squeezed out of the chance of power, but limp along with a core of zealots and an occasional fringe of protest votes.
However the two large parties tend to be unstable because they cannot comfortably contain the spectrum of views that they need to, to accommodate all their supporters. Catch 22.
The danger is that by excluding certain policies they will lose some members and become a smaller party, and then lose to the other large party under the FPTP electoral system.
To succeed, they have to include supporters with varied views, and manage to present an attractive coherent policy programme without driving away those of their party members that hold opposing policy opinions.

It is always said that the voters do not vote for a divided party. However it is still difficult for a large divided party to fail under FPTP, even when the internal stresses are titanic.
A divided party is one that has failed to find a policy programme that appeals to a large majority of its own members, or failed to silence its internal critics. At that stage one might reasonably expect natural selection to cause that party to fail or split. A divided large party should be able to form two viable smaller parties.
From a democratic perspective, is it better to have one large divided party with two internal groups supporting different policy programmes, or should they split and ask the people to choose their preference?
FPTP does not facilitate political reconstruction. Electorally it doesn't allow a party to split and so allow political realignment. So our two large political parties, and our political system, are condemned to limp on.
Thoughts for 2021
Pandemic comments: The health system needs fewer virus cases. This means full lockdown. Industry needs certainty. People need to see a way to the end of the pandemic. That means we need a period of fierce lockdown and a definite end date, and then programme of dates for further shorter lockdown periods. If we get the virus down to a low level track and trace can be effective. The government has to have the courage to lockdown early and strongly. The Government has to be brave.
The 2 metre distance should be increased to 3 metres (10 ft). It would be precautionary until we know more about the way the new variant is transmitted, and it would help the messaging.
Churches and other places of worship should shut.
Education is important, but not so that missing a particular few days is the 'be all and end all'. Schools should have shut before Christmas.
International travel including business travel should be stopped. If exceptions are made, incoming travellers should be tested before they travel, quarantined at a designated hotel at the point of entry, monitored and tested.
Vaccination priority should be NHS front line staff and care workers (ahead of care home residents). The threat is that the NHS is overwhelmed. The critical NHS resource is the clinical staff, and we owe it to them.
So what is wrong with our democracy? With the excuse that we don't want extreme politics represented in parliament, we have a democratic system that allows the extremes of opinions to take over under cover of the cloak of mainstream parties.
We are led over the brow of the hill, with no idea where we are going or how steep the hill will be. Our leader is having fun with his rhetoric, but it's just words. There is no encouragement, no humour, no reassurance if there is no meaning.
Brexit Sovereignty: Full sovereignty is like having full control of one end of a bridge.
Being in charge at Dover clearly has its limitations.

BREXIT Comment

Agreeing to a General Election was a fundamental error of judgement for the Remain side. Incomprehensible.

Does anybody else have misgivings about the Prime Minister requiring all the party candidates to pledge to vote through his Brexit deal? It seems to me a move away from parliamentary democracy towards a presidential dictatorship.
Just because it is easier to run the country if nobody can disagree with you, it doesn't make it better.
Better to elect free thinking parliamentarians able to use their brains and experience to find the right way forward.
Curiously, the electoral system that encourages that approach and yet maintains PR is DPR Voting.

Isn’t it clear by now that the problem was with the original referendum? There were no details of exit arrangements, not even the timing of the exit in the referendum question. What made it worse were the underlying logical contradictions that had not been addressed before the vote. Leaving Parliament or successive prime ministers to sort out the mess was unrealistic, and so it has proved.
When you are in a hole, stop digging. Put the whole process on hold. Take time to work out a way forward. Explain it to the people. Ask for their explicit support for any planned way forward.
Boris buses?
Funny how you wait around for a Prime Minister (there's no evidence that there is one - 'out of service buses' don't count), when all of a sudden three come at once. Or rather Theresa resigns, Johnson almost immediately loses a vote of confidence, and a stopgap is chosen who lasts a few days. The political world falls apart and, after a General Election, another temporary PM takes charge ....
Is another referendum a 'betrayal of democracy' or does it just depend on what final outcome you want?
Imagine if we had a referendum on something completely different, and the result was very close.
Three years later nothing had happened. Parliament hadn't passed the necessary laws. It was a very divisive issue.
There appeared to be two strands of thought.
1 Nothing had changed
2 The people had changed their mind.
How to proceed?
Should Parliament proceed anyway? If the people haven't changed their minds, the majority of people will be happy.
That would be a democratic outcome.
If the people have changed their minds Parliament would be implementing a course of action against the will of the people. That would be a democratic failure.
One question is 'Are the referendum options exactly the same?'
Another is 'Is the action the government proposes clear?'
Another is 'Is there any reason to think that people may have changed their minds?'
So the key issue is 'Do the people agree on the action proposed, or have they changed their minds?


It has frequently been said that the system of election used in our EU election is a PR system. It is, but this is modified by our choice of regional 'constituencies'. This modification limits the accuracy of the proportional system. One result is that the 'winner' party and regional parties can be 'over represented' at the expense of smaller national parties, which are under-represented.
The Brexit party got 40% of the total MEPs, but 31.6% of the vote. The SNP got 3.6% of the votes and 3 MEPs. CHUK got 3.4% of the vote but no MEPs. It is better than FPTP, but dividing the elections by region introduces a significant degree of disproportionality.
Likening the EU Election to a referendum on Brexit is misguided, and misleading.

There are three possible outcomes of the BREXIT Process
1     Accept the Government deal.
2     Leave on ‘No deal/WTO’ terms.
3     Revoke Article 50.
A Referendum is not a vote for an outcome, it’s a vote for a different process to determine an outcome.
It could be a way of deciding what parliament has been unable to decide.

There is no room for a nuanced position in a referendum. Political parties are almost inevitably about nuanced positions. An election is often a vote of protest. It is not necessarily a vote in favour.

In the EU election, how will a vote for the Labour Party be interpreted? Or for that matter the Conservative party?
Is it clear that Brexit Party/UKIP supports a ‘No deal/WTO’ exit, and that this is not a negotiating ploy to get to a better deal that you, the voter, wants. Maybe.
How would even a vote for a party that supports a new referendum be interpreted?

The EU election is not a referendum. It will be interpreted as such, possibly dishonestly, by whoever does best. Don’t be held to hostage by the spin doctors who will claim the electorate have answered a question different from the one posed on the ballot paper.
It may be that the result of Brexit is determined by the lottery of our electoral system. How would this work with the two main parties completely split on the issue?
'Vote for my party whatever we decide! (We just can't agree amongst ourselves on the most important decision faced by the country since WW2). and 35% of the votes should be enough to give us absolute power.'
Is it honest and ethical to pretend the Conservative Party is a single political party? Or the Labour Party?
Have UKIP activists already gamed the system by taking over the Conservative local party organisations? The Conservative brand is broken. We no longer know what it stands for. The same is true of the Labour party. Ultimately two parties who have shared power by claiming to be 'all things to all' find that this is no longer a sustainable option.
We need new smaller parties that have defined their position on the Brexit issue, and a PR system so that those parties are properly represented in Parliament.

I was standing in a pub with a half empty glass of water in my hand, when a distant acquaintance asked if I would like a drink. Not really sure what I wanted I said, ‘What have they got? Just get me something’. ‘OK, I’ll ask.’ ‘I won’t be long’, all smiles.
Three years later my ‘friend’ comes back. ‘I can only get oil or vinegar. I couldn’t decide which. But you’ll have to pay. It’s more expensive than I thought.’
My glass is still half full - not much has happened in the last three years. It's embarrassing.
If that is the choice, it seems to me I should decide what I want, especially if I am going to have to pay for it.
What do you think?

5.7 million people have signed the 'Revoke Article 50' petition, 10 times as many as the 0.57 million that have signed the 'Leave with No Deal' petition.
Would somebody (Theresa May?) like to start a petition that we should leave the EU with the Government's deal? It would be interesting to see what support it attracted.
Use of terms like 'betrayal' of the 2016 referendum when arguing about why we should leave the EU is just rhetoric. Rephrase the statement without the emotive terminology and it becomes either highly questionable or meaningless. How can asking the people if they want to leave the EU with the Government's deal be in any way anti-democratic?
Is the Conservative party now too embarrassed to acknowledge that Brexit is a mistake? Talk about the 2016 referendum usually avoids the fact that there may no longer be a Brexit majority, let alone a majority in favour of the Government deal.
Leaving the EU because we are too embarrassed to admit we may have made a mistake is the very worst outcome. It will blight our politics for a generation (and it will blight a generation of young people).
It may come to a General Election. In normal circumstances this would be a terrible way to sort out Brexit.
Here's a thought.... (if only I ruled the world...)
Every party would only support one Brexit outcome, and all their candidates should sign up to it. They would relinquish their freedom to vote for any other option for the life of the parliament.
This way if you vote for a particular party you would also know which Brexit outcome you were supporting.
In practice this would mean all parties would reform themselves. Both Conservative and Labour Parties would have to split and reform. Other parties would lose (and perhaps gain) members.
The justification for this is that Brexit is the most significant political divide of our generation. Political parties can no longer try to back more than one horse (and clearly there are more than two possible Brexit outcomes.)
It is dishonest not to be crystal clear on this issue.
Dear PM, Don't ask the DUP to vote for your deal, ask the people!

Not much news on the Brexit front.
The PM lost the Meaningful vote on her deal last night. (MV2, if you are counting.) Is her deal dead yet? No, regardless of how dead it looks.
Where now? Today the vote on leaving with no deal. but much more significantly, the two amendments. The Spelman Dromey will be significant, if passed. Secondly the Malthouse compromise. Spelman Dromey, even though it is not binding is a step on the way to finding a way out of this mess. At the time of writing, this amendment may be pulled, based on promises from the Government.
Malthouse is another trip up a blind alley, but maybe one parliament has to have a close look at, because until they have rejected it some MPs will continue to press for it - even if it has no hope of being agreed by the EU.
Although tomorrow there may be a vote about pausing Art 50, this will only have some significance when we decide what the plan is. Without a plan of any sort, it is difficult to see the EU agreeing to this.
Is the PM ready for the last throw of the dice - MV3? I think it needs another couple of weeks, so we are in the last week of March. Then, if she embraces the KW amendment, she might just get her deal passed through parliament, and maybe even get the country to agree to it. In the meantime I suspect there is a bit of the can left to be kicked, but which bit that is, I am not sure. To reach the end of this process, we all need to be pretty desperate. I think we are getting there.
Further to the last post: As I understand it, Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson are drafting an amendment to the Government's meaningful vote on their deal along the lines below. If the amendment was passed, the Government would have the approval of parliament for its deal. If passed, it would be subject to the approval of the people in a confirmatory Referendum.
The referendum would be a relatively simple question: 'For the deal' or 'Against'. If the people voted for the deal, it would pass into law without going back to parliament.
If the people voted against, we would remain in the EU.
The decision would be final.
If passed, it would be a huge political achievement for the Prime Minister. Parliament could approve her deal before the March 29th deadline. She would, against all the odds, have achieved her goal of getting a deal in line with the 2016 referendum approved by parliament.
It would also allow Conservative Remainers to vote for the deal. It would allow Labour members either to vote for the deal or abstain. I believe enough MPs could vote for the deal to make it possible for some MPs to vote against the deal, and still get it passed, so the ERG and DUP would lose their control over the Government.
It would require an extension to Art. 50, but with a clear end point in site. The referendum could be arranged relatively quickly, perhaps being held in June?
Light at the end of the tunnel... All credit to two back benchers, Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson.
Prospect Magazine explains it better than I do.
Could parliament put a bill before parliament to vote to confirm the Government's Brexit deal and then (written into the bill) put the deal to the people in a referendum to confirm parliament's vote? If the bill made it clear that in the event that the people did not confirm the deal, the Brexit process would be abandoned - we would not leave the EU, we might have a clear viable way forward.
In such a scenario, rather than vote against a deal as they did previously, many MPs would abstain, allowing the bill to pass.
It would require a suspension of Art 50 to allow the time for the referendum, and mean that we do not leave the EU on March 29
It would be the ultimate face saver for the Prime Minister and large numbers of her party, and a realistic chance of getting her deal through, against all the odds.
I imagine the ERG would reject this and vote against the deal.
Maybe it would be the trigger for them to leave the Tory party (or maybe stay and fight a new insurgency from within).
I think most Labour MPs would find it acceptable to abstain.
Light at the end of the tunnel? And the prospect of a referendum battle royal.
Top news of the day - what someone overheard in a bar in Brussels ....
Arguably it partly answers the question 'or what?' from yesterdays post, the answer being an extension of Art 50. That begs the question of what would be the point of the extension. Presumably it would be 1) to give time to arrange a managed 'no-deal' exit assuming parliament would vote for that option, which it won't, or 2) there was another deal that parliament had voted for which was likely to be acceptable to the EU (not sure what that would look like, but from this distance it looks as though it has a single horn sprouting from its forehead), or 3) a General Election (but why would the EU think that would get us anywhere), or 4) a further referendum vote.
Even if 4 seems unlikely at this stage, 1,2,&3 seem less likely.
Andrea Leadsom ('Today') seems quite clear about it. Despite Government woffle, nothing will happen until a day or two before March 29th, when parliament will have to vote the Governments deal through. (or what?)
Maybe MPs should take their holiday and just come back before the end March. On this basis the media could take Brexit off their news agenda and give everyone a break. Surely they can find something else to cover?
Will Mrs May continue to tell us that MPs will back her deal, right up to the day we leave the EU on WTO terms?
Will Jeremy Corbyn continue to tell us that he will negotiate a better deal for the UK, right up to the day we leave the EU on WTO terms?
Will MPs go with the flow, mimic headless chickens, ... or not?
'Slip slidin' away 
Slip slidin' away 
You know the nearer your destination 
The more you're slip slidin' away'
It looks as though the can will be kicked a further two weeks down the road, and we will get to March and be no further than we were before Christmas. At what point will MPs decide they can't let the Prime Minister go on like this, and that they have to do something? I think the answer is likely to be beyond anyone's expectation.
What will the final outcome be -
WTO crash out, if only by accident?
A General Election? (but where would that get us)
A new referendum?
Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are hoping they will get to an outcome before there is mutiny in their own party.
You may claim that the PM getting her deal through parliament is beyond all expectation. I just don't believe that our MPs are that spineless. I just hope I am not proved wrong.
Brexit strategies all seem to be about deliberate delay and managed self contradiction. 'Kicking the can down the road' - procrastination, and 'having your cake and eat it' - maintaining two mutually incompatible political redlines, express the strategy of both the government and the Labour leadership. Both hope to be the last man standing - Theresa May running down the clock hoping her deal will win because there is no time for anything else, and Jeremy Corbyn staying on the fence hoping the Conservative party will break up before the Labour party does.
The problem is that their policies are wishful thinking. There is no 'best of both ways' or anything better than the deal we have with the EU. At some point reality has to be confronted and choices have to be made.

… the darkest hour is just before dawn …
.... Jeremy Corbyn, refusing to back a referendum, leaves the gate open for Theresa to claim it as her own. The PM, not able to get her deal through parliament, announces that Art 50 is put on hold in order to allow the UK to hold a new Referendum, a General Election and the European election all on the same day (June 6th). She promises to implement the will of the referendum, whatever the result, and then resign.
The result of the GE is another hung parliament, with Theresa May leading a minority Conservative Government, and a Remain result in the Referendum, with the PM announcing she will resign as soon as she has tidied up the mess, and a new leader has been elected... Michael Gove's next comeback?
Jacob RM declares UDI, but only in private to his followers - a party within a party, working loosely with Nigel Farage.  
Some Tories similarly form a loose grouping to work with like-minded remain Labour and Lib Dem MPs and decide not to vote against the Government until the PM has cleared her desk.
Labour claim they always stood up for the working man through the whole Brexit process, but nevertheless Jeremy Corbyn resigns to spend more time on his allotment and John McDonnell fights it out with with Angela Rayner for the leadership of a diminished party.
Vince Cable resigns as leader of the Lib Dems and Jo Swinson takes over.

Then the crystal gets a bit hazy ….

Maybe Boris is sent to the Tower or banished to Turkey. At least he should be….

Last night's vote is described as a victory for Mrs May. The victory is not so much as what was achieved by the vote, as the fact that it was presented as a victory. We are in wonderland.
In practice the can has been kicked firmly down the road and another 14 days will disappear. We can confidently assert that the can must be pretty pissed off with the whole process.
Mrs May will be able to return to parliament to report the EU has proved inflexible and will not change the backstop. However she has received words of comfort that, although not legally binding, will allow her to claim that the whole process was worthwhile.
Or will the EU reopen the negotiations - something different on Gibraltar, Fishing, different arangements for the UK to pay into the EU for as long as the backstop prevails? What is Mrs May prepared to offer the EU to secure a backstop agreement?
There is a widespread argument that we should not take 'WTO Brexit off the table because it will weaken our negotiating position with the EU. This despite the fact that a WTO brexit will do more harm to the UK than it will to Ireland or the EU.
In my negotiating experience, you have to think carefully about negotiating with threats (which is what it is).
The first rule is that you have to think very hard about the threats you make and be prepared to carry them out, as anyone who has negotiated with children will know. We all know there is no majority in parliament for a WTO exit.
Another related rule is that you have to know your red lines. The EU is clear, we are confused. This because we are still negotiating with ourselves, whereas the EU is speaking pretty much with one voice.
There will be tears. How much damage are politicians prepared to do to the country for the sake of their fractured parties?
Within the general public there are those who don't care what happens to Ireland, don't think we should or need pay the EU any of the 39bn settlement, and don't accept any possible downsides to a WTO Brexit (it is all project fear and there is no truth in it). I am at a loss to see how to have dialogue or how there can be any compromise with anyone holding these views. It doesn't bode well for the future.
Consider a simultaneous General Election and Referendum on the three available options (same day, different ballot papers), the referendum being advisory, not mandatory, to the new Government.
The PM would be able to appeal over the heads of parliament to the people via the referendum for support for her plan, or get a clear steer from the electorate as to how they wish to proceed, and at the same time a hope of a majority in parliament and the opportunity to put the DUP and the ERG in proper perspective.
The Labour Party would get a General Election and the hope of forming a Government, and advice from the electorate which might support its intention to renegotiate with Brussels, or alternatively a clear message from the electorate as to how they wish to proceed.
From a democratic point of view, it would mean the Brexit process need not end up a casualty of the unpredictable FPTP electoral system. The three options on the referendum ballot paper (‘Remain’, ‘Leave with the Deal’, ‘Leave on WTO terms’) would mean no one could claim to be disenfranchised.
The referendum would not be a rerun of the 2016 referendum - the different circumstances, the different question, and the clearly stated advisory nature of the referendum, together with a new government would emphasis the difference.
There is talk of a General Election to break the Brexit deadlock.
Quite how this would break the deadlock isn't entirely clear, but if Mrs May gets 35ish% of the vote on a 60% turnout will she consider that, under FPTP, she has a mandate for her Brexit deal? So not 52%against 48% but 35% against the rest?
If Mrs May does call an election and 'wins' in terms of a majority of seats but with a minority of votes, will she be able to push her deal through parliament?
Will those MPs who think it is a bad deal change their minds?
Would entrenched views moderate?
What manifesto pledges would be made?
Just a thought at this stage, but could we have a simultaneous General Election and new referendum on the three available options, the referendum being advisory to the new Government?
It might just be the way to get us the people, and the Conservative and Labour parties, out of the Brexit bind.
Parliament is going to debate Brexit plan B on Jan 29th. Mrs May, Mr Corbyn, parliament generally, we are all in a bind.
Go harder brexit, and there is no majority in parliament - and no leader who wants to be responsible for the damage it will do. Go softer and the whole project starts to look pointless - no benefit but significant loss of power and influence. Furthermore there is a significant risk that the Conservative party will split.
In the country there are those who want the government to 'get on with it and just leave', not expecting the outcome to trouble them unduly, there are some who are OK with the Government deal, any deal .... and there are those who passionately want to remain.
How plan B will be formulated is difficult to see. Getting a majority seems impossible at this point. Looking for plan B kicks the can down the road, but solves nothing. Don't get me wrong - it has to be tried, but then we have even less time. Is that the point at which Mrs May, our leader, recognises that the best plan for the country is to ask the people, and simultaneously announces we will seek a delay to Art. 50?
Huge defeat last night for the PMs deal. Vote of confidence in the Government expected to be lost today. The way forward looks as though there is no way forward until everyone is convinced that there is no way forward. Everyone has to stare into the abyss. The facile assertions about a no deal have to be nailed. The similar assertions about various unicorn deals have to be demolished. Article 50 will have to be extended or revoked. Parliament will have to come to terms with this, as will the people - it's a chicken and egg situation, with very little time for those who can't accept it to come to terms with it.
A General Election is a possibility, solves nothing, the equivalent of throwing the toys out of the pram. I believe Parliament/The Government won't choose this option.
The only way forward is to confront the hard truths that there is no deal that parliament will vote for. It won't implement a hard Brexit. The people have to be convinced of the truth as regards the various options, and then they have to vote.
They have to vote for one of the practical options and they have to know, as far as possible, what the real implications are. If we continue to allow false impractical or illogical assertions to go unchallenged, then we are sunk.
The Government has a plan for the NHS funded by but dependent on Brexit savings. She said the £20.5bn cash injection had been made possible partly because of the “vast amounts” that would be saved by Britain leaving the EU. This seems very dangerous rhetoric.
Can the Conservative Party survive Brexit? Increasingly this seems, at least ultimately, unlikely. The dilemma is
1 A minority of members want to remain in the UK.
2 The majority of its members want a form of Brexit but not one that is on offer.
3 The majority of its members are old.
4 Its MPs are just as split, but a majority lean toward Remain, or a very soft Brexit.
Any form of Brexit outcome is not going solve the problem for the party.
The questions are
 ‘What damage will the party do to itself in the process of leaving the EU?’
‘Will the members/MPs on the losing side still be, or feel, sufficiently in tune with the party to stay in it?’
‘What damage will the party suffer after we leave the EU (presuming we do leave)?’
‘How would the party cope if there was no Brexit?’
Another way of looking at it is that perhaps the only way for the Conservative party to survive is for it to split into a Rightwing ‘Farage style’ UKIP type party, and a ‘Patten/Major/Cameron’ style moderate conservative party. This isn’t going to happen if there is a Labour Party still in opposition capable of winning a General Election, but could well happen if Labour wins the next General Election, or Labour splits first.
Having said that, the Labour situation looks a bit like a mirror image.
Happy New Year! or should that be Brace! Brace! Brace!
For a break from Brexit I refer back to something I wrote in 2011.

Posted 24 December 2011 = 'Significant current scandals, and those yet to come'
How much progress have we made? Judge for yourself
I suppose Mrs May is trying to reduce our democratic input to the Brexit question to the limited choice we get with the blunt instrument of First Past the Post - two unacceptable choices, and any third choice is effectively ignored. In a sense you may say she is only doing politics the way she knows. The danger to our political system is that when you stress test something brittle it fails catastrophically.
Jeremy Corbyn is at odds with the membership again. I don't think it is right to say he is following the same policy as Mrs May. Mrs May is playing for time in the hope that the prospects for her deal will improve, and the spectre of a 'no deal' exit will scare her supporters into backing her. Jeremy Corbyn is seemingly keen to keep out of the line of fire when it is all aimed at Mrs May. He can't afford to have a spotlight on Labour Brexit policy. Apart from all the other reasons he doesn't want to provoke a split in his own party.
It is rumoured that the 'Leave' group are considering how to campaign in a referendum. The mooted slogan 'Tell them again' has the ring of authenticity. If there was a three option vote, it would rather torpedo that particular slogan because it would be unclear to 'Leave' supporters as to which option the slogan was supporting, and rather emphasise that the first referendum didn't settle the important question of 'How should we leave?'
Mrs May appears to want to run the clock down so that MPs are faced with an impossible choice. The proverbial gun to parliament's head. Russian roulette with the future of the country. This is not principled, tough and determined, this smacks of malevolence and arrogance. These are qualities that have not been characteristic of Mrs May or apparent to the casual observer/voter up to now, although the unwelcoming attitude to migrants during her time as Home Secretary was a sign. She no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. The Conservatives are looking more and more like the 'nasty party'. It is ironic that Theresa May is in charge.
Brexit will not be resolved until we have realised that the Government deal does not resolve the underlying issues, and we have then fully confronted a WTO Brexit. When there are no alternatives left, when there is no time left, when there is clearly parliamentary deadlock, when the next step will start the unstoppable momentum towards the cliff edge, only then will the Government seek a delay to Brexit and announce that they have been forced by the Opposition parties/DUP/Divisions in their own party/Public Opinion(?), to make arrangements for a new Referendum. In the mean time, neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Theresa May will risk taking the blame, the ire of Brenda from Bristol, for delaying Brexit and asking the public to vote on an outcome.
They government is making preparations for a disastrous exit. I hope they are also planning the referendum. It would be a dereliction of duty not to do so.
It is frequently said that if we have a further referendum it would be an insult to the electorate, a betrayal of democracy, etc. That it would be terribly divisive. That if we have one more, why not a third/fourth etc.
This argument does not stand up to scrutiny.
Firstly it is not an insult to democracy to ask the people.
The question asked in the 2019 referendum cannot and will not be the same question asked in 2016. The question must be about where we go from here.
The reason why there should be a second referendum is that there is an important question on which parliament has not been able to decide. There could not be a third/fourth etc referendum unless there was a new important and significantly different question on which parliament could not decide. Any one who suggests there should be a third referendum has to say what the question could be.
Will it be divisive? We are terribly divided. The best hope is a two round vote with a decisive outcome, allowing everyone to feel that they had their chance to vote on the way forward. There will always be hot heads. They should not be given encouragement.

As a maritime nation, do we understand that a ship that has been in port for a long time has to be made ready before it goes to sea? For the comfort and safety of all on board, the captain and crew need to know the destination and prepare a passage plan.
In our situation, the captain decided to ask the passengers whether or not we should leave port. There has been discussion about possible destinations, but no decision. The passengers said 'OK, let's go', so the ship has cast off and is now drifting with no direction although we are still in the harbour.
There is still no agreement on where we are going. The crew are divided and mutinous, the replacement captain seems confused and powerless, and the passengers increasingly worried and baffled. There are a lot of rumours about tides, currents, conflicting weather forecasts, and shortage of fuel, food, and lavatory paper on board, and that we are drifting towards a sandbank, or even rocks.
Some say 'Let's head for the horizon. There is a whole world out there!' Some say 'Let's just go as far as the harbour mouth and anchor until we have got a better plan', and some say 'This is daft. Let's return to our berth.'

After Mrs May has cancelled the vote on her deal - What next? With Parliament split and unable to agree, it is increasingly looking as though the Prime Minister will have to appeal to the people. A 2019 referendum is the best chance for her to get a mandate for her deal, and I think she will have no difficulty with another U turn. With parliament strongly against a 'No deal' Brexit, it would also seem that a 2019 referendum is the best chance those who want to leave the EU regardless of the consequences, to get a mandate for their choice. Equally those who want to Remain in the EU are clear that the only way through is to appeal to the people by means of a People's Vote. Are we all agreed then?
If a senior politician promotes a course of action which clearly is not practical, or will not have the desired effect, is it because the politician is devious or stupid? I always assumed our senior politicians were bright, but you have to wonder.
If we have another referendum, will all the voters who came out to vote in the first referendum feel betrayed? Perhaps they will get a taste for going out to vote. Perhaps it just depends on the result...
For example, if there was a majority in the first vote for a hard Brexit, (and of course we don't know if there was or not, because the people weren't asked) and that is also the result of the new referendum when they are asked, it is difficult to see how that majority will feel betrayed, or angry, or that democracy works against them.
There will be increasing debate about a people's vote/ second referendum.
I would favour a two round vote. Round one, with three options, followed by a run off two weeks later between the two strongest options. One small mod - if one choice gets over 50% in the first round, the second round would not normally take place, but in this instance it should still take place. The winner of the second round would still be the ultimate winner. This plan reduces any cries of 'foul', and is the best chance of a decisive vote, and reinforced legitimacy for the final result.
A momentous day yesterday.
Publishing the Legal Advice may have implications for the future but I don't think it will do much for the Brexit debate apart from parliament putting a shot across the Government's bows.
The Legal Opinion by the Advocate General of the ECJ was expected, is not the last word, but does undermine the argument that there is no way back.
Dominic Grieve's amendment shows a practical way forward.
Parliament has voted to take back control. Without this amendment, Pandora's box would be sitting on the despatch box just waiting to be opened by the Article 50 time lock.

There now appear to be three/four options.
A No deal brexit: Parliament won't vote for it but the people may. The best chance for that seems a parliamentary foul up, or a People's Vote.
The Government's deal: Parliament seems unlikely to vote for it, but TM can appeal to the people in a People's Vote.
No Brexit: The only chance is a People's Vote.

All these options require article 50 to be put on hold. The EU will do that allowing enough time to organise a People's Vote.
A Norway plus option is being touted. This has several disadvantages. It needs to be negotiated with the EU. They are unlikely to entertain a renegotiation, or the long postponement of Art 50 that would be necessary. I don't think Parliament would cancel Art 50 in order to negotiate a new deal, and the question of freedom of movement makes this problematic with some sections of the public. For these reasons I don't think this will progress.
Jane Merrick tweets: 'A great analogy by David Miliband on #wato about Brexit - we’ve agreed to buy the house but now the surveyor’s report is back there are problems - this is why we need a second referendum.'
(see Nov 18 below)
We decided to move. We didn't even choose a house. When it came to it, the houses we liked the look of weren't on the market. I blame the estate agents.
Nov 30th, 2018
It is almost agreed that immigration was an important factor in the Brexit referendum debate, as was the plan to 'Take back control'. The implication was that if we had control we could reduce immigration, and that would be a good thing - there would be more jobs, better social benefits, housing and lower taxes etc.
This was false on several counts. Firstly we have always had control of immigration from outside the EU, but we haven't reduced it, despite Government promises. It is going up. Secondly, migration has been positive for the UK economy. Thirdly how the Government allocates tax revenue to public spending is entirely under its control. If you are not happy, its our Government to blame, not the EU.
Nov 26th, 2018
Mrs May has disinterred the lazy old lie that Brexit will allow more spending on the NHS. Mrs May! If Brexit will allow more spending on the NHS, staying in the EU will allow you to spend even more.
Nov 25th, 2018
Will Mrs May really want to push through this deal risking there is no majority in the country for it? Will she do a 'Cameron' and resign leaving the Conservative Party to take the blame, and the country to find ways of coping with the mess? Mrs May always used to argue that we need a Government that can create a strong economy, which generates the tax revenues to pay for the public services we want and need. Alice through the looking glass ....
Nov 24th, 2018
Mrs May's deal appears to leave a great deal unclear.
How does it deal with the Northern Ireland question? It doesn't. But it puts us into temporary limbo pending finding a solution. What happens if we can't find a solution? (we haven't yet).
How does it deal with Gibraltar/Fishing/ and more
What is clear is that we will have to keep to EU rules, but have no say in any new rules, or any presence in the EU parliament. (So yes, we will be losing sovereignty and democratic accountability. )
The EU will get their money, but only what we actually owe them (approx £39bn). And the EU will be much stronger when it comes to negotiating the trade agreement.
Nov 18th, 2018
Forget all the fuss and drama. No real need to listen to the news bulletins. The only real question is "What will be the question on the ballot paper?" That is the only important outcome from all this excitement. The next question may be "How will the votes be counted?"
Nov 18th, 2018
How can a second referendum be any sort of betrayal of the people? If the people vote in a referendum on the deal the result will be what the people want. How can the people betray themselves?

You might decide to move house, especially if you are living in a 3 bed house and are led to believe you can get a 4 bed house for less money. If, when you look for the house you want to buy, you find that you can't get a 4 bed house, you can only get a two bed house and it's going to cost you more, or the alternative is a one bed flat, you might decide that you don't need to move. Or you might decide you do want to move anyway, and settling for a 2 bed house is the best you can do. Either way, you haven't betrayed yourself by your choice. Just because you might decide to move, it doesn't mean you have no choice about where you are going to move to.
Nov 16th, 2018
Talk of 48 letters launching a challenge to Mrs May seems pointless. Firstly Mrs May may well welcome the challenge. It would be a distraction. If Mrs May wins she is fairly secure for another year, removing a degree of uncertainty. It would also start to make the extreme brexiteers look like a busted flush.

Better to consider her deal. Is it better than no deal? Look at the potential consequences of no deal. Is it better than the deal we have already - our position as an EU member. We will lose control, power and influence. But before rushing to judgement, the detail has to be scrutinised.
Nov 14th, 2018
Mrs May has a deal agreed with the EU negotiators. Few people have seen it yet. So what is the best deal for the UK? To crash out under WTO terms, or accept Mrs May's compromise deal intended to minimize the harm to the country and Northern Ireland?
Of course the best deal is the one we have as a member of the EU. Let's use our power and influence inside the EU to strengthen the EU, and make the changes that could be made if we engaged with other like-minded EU member countries. Let's not settle for second best.
Nov 12th, 2018
Can someone explain how a General Election will solve the Northern Ireland problem?
Nov 10th, 2018
Enormous credit to Jo Johnson - brave, principled, intelligent, and always quieter, but in this instance making more of an impact than his brother (and more sense).
Number 10 says that there will not be a People's Vote 'under any circumstances'. We will see.
Soon we will reach a political impasse ie realising that there is no course of action that Parliament will approve. Kicking the can down the road (something the Government has done repeatedly) may seem attractive, but will not solve the problem, and will just prolong the agony. Choosing a new Prime Minister doesn't solve the problem.
There are two ways forward. A General Election, or a Referendum to decide the way forward. (A People's Vote).
If, as is likely, the Government has no deal to offer, the choice will be between leaving the EU on WTO terms, or remaining in the EU.
The consequences of a General Election, because of the First Past the Post electoral system, and because of the state of politics in the UK at present, would be entirely unpredictable. It would be no better than tossing a multisided coin. And what course of action would be in the Conservative Manifesto, or for that matter, the Labour Manifesto? In all probability it would exacerbate the divisions in our society.
Nov 9th, 2018
One argument against a People's vote referendum is that it would be a betrayal of democracy and of the people who voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum. This is sometimes linked to dark suggestions that there might be civil disturbances as a consequence.
How can asking the people be a betrayal of democracy? Not asking the people might well be! Once the terms of our departure are determined, asking the people whether or not they really want to leave the EU on these terms seems the very essence of democracy. The 2016 referendum gave no approval for any particular exit plan, so in this respect it is not valid to say that the Government has a mandate to leave, regardless of the terms.
Any one on the losing side of a referendum may well be disappointed. A 'People's vote', if it confirms that people want to leave the EU without a deal, would by definition, have a majority, more than 50%, of the people backing that course of action. Then leaving the EU without a deal really would have a mandate. There would be no doubt.
The converse would also be true. If, in a 'People's vote' a majority, more than 50%, voted to remain in the EU, that cannot be a betrayal of the people. The people would have decided.
The worst outcome would be to push through a course of action that the people did not want.
The threat of civil disturbance? No one can say what some hot head will do. People do, on occasions, do bad things. But there would be no justification for violence in the face of a democratic decision.
Nov 8th, 2018
Northern Ireland is at the heart of the road block/tank trap on the way to leaving the EU with a deal. I am amazed that some leavers would sacrifice Northern Ireland in order to leave the EU. This is remarkable. Ultimately this risks either damage to Northern Ireland, and/or the the break up of the United Kingdom. There was no mandate in the 2016 referendum for this outcome.
Nov 7th, 2018
You will have heard it said many times before that deals involving the EU are always done at the last minute. The presumption is that this will be the case with Brexit. This is a comforting thought for many. The other possibility - that there will be no deal - is seen as scaremongering.
Does logic or politics say there must be a deal? I don't think so.
The logic is problematic for both the EU and the UK.

The EU (and Ireland) has red lines to defend its single market. It also has red lines to defend the Good Friday Agreement. If Northern Ireland is not in the Single Market, defence of the Single Market demands a border between North and South. The only solution for the EU, Northern Ireland staying in the Single Market, is not acceptable to the UK.

The UK will not accept a border between Northern Ireland and the South. But nor will it accept a border in the Irish sea. Staying in the single market with all that necessarily involves is the only logical solution, but is not acceptable to the UK.

No deal which includes a border between the north and Southern Ireland will be acceptable to the EU, or to the UK. An alternative is to leave the EU with no agreement. This doesn't solve the problem, and is the worst of all outcomes. However it is the only outcome that doesn't require an agreement.

At some point the UK parliament will have to face up to the fact that more time will not make a solution more likely or even possible. At some point the politicians will be forced to concede they cannot solve the problem. The only alternative will be to put the issue to the people - to leave with no deal, the worst possible outcome and a border between north and south, or to remain in the EU until a clear way forward has been devised.

Not too long to wait to see how this plays out .... !
Oct 27, 2018
It seems to me that one thing that unites both Leavers and Remainers is that we all expect more from Brexit than it is likely to deliver. I accept that half the country are expecting things to be significantly better, and the other half expect it to be significantly worse, but overall it could be that both sides have exaggerated ideas.
Assuming we leave the EU with no deal, Leavers expect our economy to be invigorated, that there will be better paid jobs, and jobs for those who don't have them, and fewer people speaking foreign languages. In practice our economy will be hit unevenly.
Leavers will not see the end of the world. There will be some initial disruption immediately after we leave, but if you don't live in Kent, or work in an industry directly involved, you will just hear about it on the news. OK, there may be shortages in the shops, but older members of the population may recall the shortages during and immediately after the war. You cope, and learn to buy what you can. Yes, there will be travel delays but haven't there always been delays?
The car industry will not leave overnight. It probably will over the next five to ten years, and that goes for jobs in other industries that have business models based on a relationship with the EU. Those who lose their jobs will of course notice. But those not directly employed will not be so badly affected.
We will all have higher prices to pay. Higher taxes seem likely. But for those who are retired, they have lived through rising prices before. You just tighten your belt.
Will we notice fewer migrants? Again, not immediately, but probably in time. We will hear about it on the news, but otherwise it will be lost in increased prices, and longer waiting times for hospital treatment, access to care homes etc. In time I think we will notice the difference with the migrants already here finding that their language skills have improved, their children have picked up the language and youth culture so that in time, yes, there will be fewer people on the streets speaking a foreign language. Either that or we do not reduce the level of migration, which is another possibility.
Will we notice our reduced influence in the world? Reduced influence seems likely, but will we actually notice? Our Government will be spinning the news, and the standard method is to overstate our importance in the world. The other standard is to blame some outside entity if things look bad. You might think we will not have the EU to blame, but in fact it may be that we find more blame to heap on the EU. It is difficult for any government to accept that it is at fault, that it caused the trouble, that we are no longer so important in the world. This will not change.
Oct 26, 2018
If there is a strong public interest case for using parliamentary privilege to name and shame, contrary to a Court injunction, should whoever used the particularly vile and violent language directed at Theresa May be similarly named and shamed, particularly if the individual is a Member of Parliament?
Oct 20, 2018
A fantastic day in London for the march. Wonderful weather, passion, lovely people - a broad smile on my face for the whole day. No worry that we weren't able to get close to the speeches. The march was still coming on behind us long after the speeches were over.
700,000 - not as many as the march against the Iraq war, and even then the Government ignored the marchers. It was a bad mistake. The Government should have listened to the marchers. The Iraq war was a disaster.
For the sake of the country, the Government must not make the mistake of ignoring so many of us this time.
Oct 19, 2018
I can understand why an individual who voted 'leave' in 2016, and thus numbers of individuals, may feel that a referendum on the terms of the deal, that has the potential to end our efforts to leave the EU, is a threat to their victory in 2016. However I can't see that this is a threat to the population as a whole, or even a majority of the population. Whatever the result of the further referendum on the terms of the deal, the Government would have to act in accordance with the outcome, as expressed by the majority. Presumably the winners will be happy with the result, the losers may be disappointed.
Oct 18, 2018
Either the people want to leave the EU, or they don’t. In 2016 they voted to leave but without deciding how. When the final deal is agreed, or it is decided no deal is possible, the Brexit vision will finally be clear. What could make them change their minds?
Asking the people to vote to confirm their intention will be the sure way to remove any doubt as to whether the people agree to the Government’s Brexit proposal, or not.
That would be both democratic – you can’t seriously say that asking the people to vote is undemocratic, and better than leaving the doubt that we are proceeding with such a major and irrevocable step against the wishes of the people.
If, as a democrat, you believe the people voted to leave in a careful, considered, mature and significant way, or frankly in any other way, you can’t be worried by the prospect of the people being asked their opinion of the detailed proposal and, consequently, to confirm their Brexit opinion such a short time after the first vote.
Oct 14, 2018
I speak to you tonight from the Crisis Management centre at Number 10. I have to tell you that I have failed in my efforts to find a form of Brexit which convinces anyone that it is viable and politically acceptable.
My ‘Chequers’ proposal was unacceptable to many of my colleagues who judged it as a form of Brexit without the merits of the Brexit that they had hoped for, and for which they had campaigned. Many of my other colleagues realised that the benefits were hugely outweighed by the costs and disadvantages.  My DUP colleagues would not accept it, although it seems that they are surrounded by intersecting red lines making any proposal unacceptable. My Scottish colleagues will not accept being treated in anyway differently to Northern Ireland.
 I could not get agreement in my Cabinet, let alone in parliament, and I have to conclude that the life of the Chequers proposal is now effectively and politically over. It had no chance of acceptance within the EU because they will not allow us the benefits of being in the EU if we are not in it. But I am not in a position to put any proposal to them.

I have given much thought to leaving the EU without a deal. As it has been said, that would be consistent with the 2016 referendum result and has the merit of not requiring and agreement with the EU. However it does require agreement within the cabinet and parliament, and there is none. Parliament will not vote for this option. If the proposal to leave without a deal had demonstrably widespread public support, it might be possible to overcome these hurdles, despite the damage such a disorderly outcome would do to the UK both in the shorter and longer terms.  But it does not.

You may think that it might be possible to negotiate a different deal with the EU, but I have to say you are missing the point. The entrenched choices of the different factions within our party make any agreement impossible, even before such proposal has encountered opposition from within the UK, let alone from within the EU.

You may think that a General Election would be one way to overcome the parliamentary impasse. However it does nothing to solve the underlying problems associated with the Brexit issue, and I cannot support a course of action which would waste further time while offering no clear way out of the mess we are in.

You may think that I am exhausted, but I can tell you that is not the case.  I am determined to lead this country forward out of this slough of despond. This will take some time.

My first action then will be to suspend Article 50, to give us the time we need to make the right decision for the country.
My second action will be to renew my cabinet. We have much talent and experience within the party that is not currently in the cabinet.

Recognising that there are only two possible ways forward, that we have a parliamentary impasse, I will bring forward legislation for a referendum vote of the whole electorate to decide whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal, or whether it should remain in the EU, at least for the time being and until such time as a viable exit plan evolves, which has majority public support. The referendum will take place after a short period which allows the electorate to grasp the consequences of the decision they will make. Clearly your Government has prepared a number of papers which explain the likely consequences of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. These papers which represent our best objective crisis assessment will inform the electorate.
I give this commitment to you. I will see this process through, and will implement the will of the people as expressed in the forthcoming referendum.

TMPM, October/November 2018
Oct 14, 2018
It seems surprising that we are still arguing amongst ourselves and blaming the EU because we don't have an agreed deal.
Oct 6, 2018
What will the benefits of Brexit will be? Or rather, what do those in favour of Brexit hope that the benefits will be?
Wealth? Do they hope to be richer? This may be the case for some individuals, but it won't be the case for the economy overall, and will mean lost jobs or lower wages for many.
Power? Unfettered power ... described as Sovereignty. Maybe Conservative party members hope to win power and introduce policies to their liking without the constraints of EU policies. The downside being that from time to time they will lose power. The mirror image may be what motivates Labour party members. It suggests that our political seesaw will get more extreme. Is this the prize?
Fewer foreigners? I hope that won't be the case, but I suspect that that is what swings a fair proportion of Leave supporters.
I think they will be disappointed on all three counts.
Reality check? It would be good to know what Leave voters do hope to get out of Brexit, even if they are going to be disappointed.
Oct 4, 2018
It may or may not be obvious to you, but in case you hadn't given it much thought, or accepted what some politicians have said, having a General Election is a dreadful way of trying to settle the Brexit question. This article on the LSE Blog by Yossi Nehushtan, Senior Lecturer in the School of Law at Keele University explains it.
Our General Election system has many flaws. Please don't try to use it to sort out Brexit.
Oct 2, 2018
Brexit appears to be more about addressing the policy shortcomings of our own governments than the consequences that follow from membership of the EU. Whether or not we leave, 'Leavers' are going to be disappointed.
The term 'Fake News' is now so misused that it has lost its intended meaning. The danger for users of the term is that it sounds like an authentication of the news that it attempts to brand as untrue.
Sept 30
Increasingly 'Leavers' are finding their nice comforting warm bath is actually getting hotter and they have left it too late to react. Mrs May has set the thermostat to 'boil'. Hence the panicky abuse of 'Chequers', and the sketchy 'Canada' style alternative proposals from Mr Johnson. They are beginning to realise that they will not be able to stop a 'People's Vote'.
There was a reason why the ERG did not post their proposals earlier. Like the Emperor's new clothes, expose the plan to daylight and people will see there is no plan. It is a measure of the panic that this decision has been reversed.

Sept 29
I listened with interest to Sanchia Berg's piece on Toyota on 'Today'. The 'Today' editors managed to play down the importance of this story by 'balancing' it with a statement from the Government saying they would make sure it all turns out OK. They can't, if they persue any form of Brexit.
Secondly Digby Jones ignored the threat to our motor industry appearing to claim that the EU would not let this happen because of the threat of redundancies in the EU, pointing out that the UK is a large market for EU manufactured cars. ie it's political scare mongering, not hard business.
Come on Radio 4! Let's examine this claim. In effect the claim is we won't buy BMWs, VWs, etc. Instead we will buy cars made outside the EU, and not cars made in the UK either (because they will be struggling to be competitive, and will gradually be replace by plants in the EU). Are consumers going to accept this restriction on choice? No! We will continue to buy BMWs etc. We will just have to pay more for them.
The fact is that Brexit will be bad for Europe, but the damage will be small compared to the damage to the UK (and their economy is so much bigger anyway).
For us Brexit represents a threat to the existence of our Motor industry. It will be wiped out. We will lose the industry and its manufacturing jobs, along with the related jobs and economic benefits of the parts suppliers. Furthermore there will be damage to all the companies that have car suppliers or parts suppliers as customers.
Come on 'Today'. Don't lose sight of the truth in your search for 'balance'

Sept 28
Dear Leaver,
I don't know why you voted leave. We have a difference of opinion. But we may well agree that the post referendum actions of the Government have not helped to enhance our confidence in the outcome of the Brexit process. There is confusion. There is uncertainty about the implications of the different possible outcomes. You may be starting to think that getting the process over and done with is more important than the outcome. But there I would beg to differ.
I fear our politicians and the country are so divided that no outcome currently envisaged, 'Chequers' /Norway /Canada /WTO /Remain, none of them will get decisive support from parliament. In any case in the current climate, I doubt the people will readily accept any decision from parliament, even if parliament can make a decision. We will still be divided and that would be the worst possible outcome.
In these circumstances we have to find a way out of the log jam. It is essential that the people endorse the outcome, and perhaps the only way to achieve this is to have a referendum on the options for Brexit. You may say 'not another referendum', but you should be clear that this is a different referendum. It is in the interests of Leavers, of all of us that the final decision is clearly democratic and clearly has the support of the people.
A General Election? A General Election chooses an MP, it is an erratic method of choosing a Government. There are too many issues conflated in the vote to show a clear decision. A General Election is not a Referendum.
Leavers won the first referendum. There is no reason to think Leavers will not win again. If that happens, Remainers will have no option but to accept, and I think the majority of the country will swing behind the decision, and make the best of it. If we leave it would be better to have the decision democratically endorsed. We should have a Referendum on the way forward. It should allow us to choose from the major options. Nobody should be excluded from taking part. And everybody's vote should count equally.
Sept 25, 2018
A People's Vote is looking more likely. There is a debate about the likely question. The most important question is whether 'Remain' will be an option on the ballot paper. Such a referendum deciding whether to accept the Government's negotiated deal, or leave without a deal, must include 'Remain' as an option. The referendum must listen to all the British people, both the 52% and the 48%. It would be completely undemocratic if the 48% were excluded.
Sept 24, 2018
Whether or not we leave the EU, things have to change.
Here's my shopping list.
The Voting System - which is the direct cause of our binary adversarial system, and the resulting shallow political behaviour and poor government.
Equality - The distribution of wealth and income is too extreme. The people should be treated more fairly.
Public Spending and taxes
Education - should be the priority
Housing - We need to resurrect the Council House system, properly funded.
Health and the elderly - hard choices, not many answers.
Drugs - Start in the prisons, then to the gangs.
Localism, Communities and the Family.
This all means increased public spending and taxes.
Monopolies - We don't know how to manage monopolies, either public or private. We need solutions for both national/regional monopolies, such as the rail and utilities, but also the monopoly-like power of the mega corporations.
Integration - Focus on ensuring all immigrants speak good English.
Sept 22, 2018
Courtesy - you offer it, and hope to receive it in return.
Respect - you have to earn it.
Is there anything about the Government's approach to Brexit that deserves respect? I have never been so embarrassed by our Government. How so? How Brexit makes us look on the world stage. You can add to that Boris Johnson's time as Foreign Secretary, and Chris Grayling's time as a Minister. It would be laughable if it was not frightening. Courtesy, yes. Respect, they haven't earned it ...yet.
Sept 21, 2018
Bored with Brexit, or scared of the outcome? Do you get bored with poker when you have bet your house on the game? The Prime Minister is gambling our economy (and our power and influence in the world) not just for the next few years but for at least a generation. She appears not to realise she has a weak hand.
Perhaps you believe the 'leavers' that it is the EU who will cave in, that they will dismantle the EU to accommodate us, or that it will just be alright anyway. This is wishful thinking. But regardless of how confident, how assertive leavers may sound, the EU is not going to undermine its existence just because we want to leave. We have to come up with a plan, not the EU.
The British Governments of both parties have always taken credit for the benefits that stem from EU membership, and used the EU as a shield when their political cowardice stops them from telling the public hard facts.
We are getting to the stage that if the politicians can't decide (and they can't), we the public should have our say with a People's Vote.
Sept 20, 2018
What is the difference between Jacob Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson? I suspect Mr Mogg wants a hard Brexit more than he wants to be Prime Minister. Whereas Mr Johnson wants to be Prime Minister, and everything else is part of the means to an end. I hope it doesn't come to that sort of choice.
Sept 19, 2018
Could Theresa May keep Britain in the EU (and still be PM afterwards?)
Suppose the 'Chequers deal' is rejected by Parliament. There is political chaos. Rather than resign, she says the only option is to go for 'The peoples vote'. She has demonstrated to the electorate that she did her best to get a Brexit deal but, if parliament rejects the deal, this is not possible. She asks the people to decide the way forward in a referendum and then, as an honest broker, implements the will of the people.
just possible ...
Sept 18, 2018
One price we will pay if we leave the EU will be the loss of our motor and car parts industry. Not all at once, but over a period of time. There will be a knock on effect for all the related service businesses.
In the same way that overseas companies, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Tata (Jaguar), BMW (Mini), Groupe PSA (Vauxhall) invested in production facilities as a way to have a presence in the EU, so when it come to reinvesting, modernising, that investment will go to other plants that are in the EU. Yes, we have skills, but so do others. Being out of the single maket will make each our operations in the UK less efficient, and less cost effective. The European car market is too closely integrated, too complex, and too efficient to be able to shrug off this fundamental blow to their business model.
The EU motor industry will continue to maximise efficiency and drive down costs. They just won't make the cars or source the parts here. We will still buy their cars. They will just cost more.
Sept 17, 2018
Mrs May says its either the Chequers deal or no deal. Boris Johnson predicts a spectacular political car crash. I think both will be right because Parliament will not vote for Chequers, and it won't vote for leaving the EU on WTO rules, so that in effect Parliament will not approve any deal. This will constitute a political 'car crash', and the only way out will be the 'People's Vote'.
Sept 16, 2018
Is it fair to say 'Leave' voters are altruistic in that they are voting for an ideal, a dream, that they are passionate about, that will cost them in terms of a mix of lost jobs, higher taxes, reduced public services, reduced benefits? That the driving force for many voters is that they want less immigrants in the country takes the edge of this perceived altruism, and will be another source of disappointment, if we leave the EU.
Sept 14, 2018
It is always worth remembering that Leavers have failed to agree on what they want. What they have in common is that they are against every other proposal.
Sept 13, 2018
On the nature of sovreignty. To a Leaver, sovereignty is being able to decide on our laws and regulations without negotiation or compromise. The world isn't like that. We, our politicians, have been involved in designing, drafting, and agreeing to all the EU legislation to which Leavers object. It is not a lack of democracy. We have had our say, and sometimes we didn't get exactly what we wanted, but we agreed to it anyway. Leavers want to be in charge, deciding what laws, regulations we should have, without compromise.
To achieve that they will have to do away with democracy altogether.
Sept 11, 2018
There is an interesting piece in the Guardian by Rafael Behr. 'The remainers’ biggest problem? Voters have switched off'. He has identified a factor that has the potential to determine our future. Many people say “I no longer care how or when we leave the EU, I just want it over and done with.” This suggests that public opinion will not shift dramatically unless something bad happens which the public attributes to Brexit, with the perception that similar bad things will happen in the future. Otherwise opinion polls will be operating at the margins, ie the engaged voters many of whom have fixed ideas on Brexit and are unlikely to change. It also suggests that if there is a People's Vote, turnout may be much reduced.

It would be sad for democracy if we do not determine our future through positive engagement, but rather allow a minority (allowed by our own apathy) to determine our future.
Sept 10, 2018
It is now said that the Brexit group of MPs will not now come forward with a Brexit Plan. They don't need to publish details of their plan. They will simply object to the other plan(s).
If they can't agree on a plan amongst themselves (the same problem the Government has) the prospects of getting any plan agreed by parliament seem minimal.

The other thought is that by not publishing details it will allow their spokespeople to assert that they have the best plan with all sorts of benefits, while allowing no scrutiny or analysis. Can you see through something that isn't there? You may be considered stupid if you don't realise how good it is.

For anyone interested, details of the plan have been published in encrypted form - by Hans Christian Andersen, #theemperorsnewclothes.
Sept 9, 2018
Plans to reduce the number of MPs to 600 (from 650) are being pushed through. Bad plan, bad timing. An argument in favour of this plan is that it will make constituencies more nearly equal in terms of electorate numbers. This has limited benefit. If you really want to make our electoral system fairer you have to scrub 'First past the post' and move to a PR system. Reducing the number of MPs will give them more work to do, and make it more difficult for them to represent their constituents, or scrutinise the legislation going through parliament, just at the time their workload is expanding because of Brexit. Presumably our MPs will also take on the constituency work that will come their way when there are no longer any MEPs.
Sept 6, 2018
If you think Brexit ought to happen, how do you explain the mess we are in? Have you more to say than it's the fault of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the EU, ... or anyone else?
Rather it seems that no one really had much idea what the consequences of leaving the EU would be, and we are still struggling with this handicap.
Some blame EU intransigence, but if you leave a club, do you expect the club to change the rules that will apply to the remaining members of the club for the benefit of the leaver? Perhaps you think that changing the rules will benefit the remaining members, and it would be irrational for the EU to ignore the damage that would be inflicted.
Few leavers argue that Brexit will have a beneficial effect on the UK in the forseeable future. Mostly it's about immigration, sovreignty, or narrow sector benefit. If we can take that attitude we should not be suprised if the EU is prepared to stick to what it considers its principles.
Sept 5, 2018
How can anyone argue that if the people have a final say on whatever Brexit deal is offered, it is a betrayal of democracy?
There is no logic in this.
More to the point, if we proceed with a form of Brexit that a majority of the people do not want, that would be a betrayal of democracy. How do you know whether or not a majority of the people are in favour of the Brexit deal the Government negotiates? You have to ask them. The only way to do this is in a referendum.
Sept 4, 2018
A resolution of Brexit is unlikely until we have fully confronted a 'no deal' Brexit. That means challenging the plan and the detail. I think this process is underway.
Sept 4, 2018
Ian Birrell has an interesting piece in the iNews suggesting Proportional Representation is part of the answer to our political deadlock. I agree wholeheartedly. He doesn't say which form of PR he thinks would work best. Perhaps that will follow.
Why haven't we heard more from our politicians about PR?

Sept 3, 2018
Just some random thoughts.
It is often said that when it comes to it, Britain and the EU will pragmatically keep things moving on Brexit+1. Two things worry me particularly - the confusion, and the law. As regards the law, it covers everything to do with international trade. It's not just our law. You can't expect people to decide to break the law, our law or international law, in order 'pragmatically' to keep things moving.

Mrs May should be safe from rivals, at least until Brexit+1. (of course if it becomes clear that Brexit+1 is receding over the horizon, all bets are off.) She surely must expect to take the blame for the whole dismal process, much as she will try to blame the EU. Everybody else will be preparing their 'it was nothing to do with me' speeches.

If it is true that Mark Carney might be prepared to stay on, there may be many reasons. Perhaps he can now see light at the end of the tunnel, or more to the point, and to mix my metaphors, perhaps he can see the whole Brexit process is beginning to whirl inexorably into a black hole from which there is no escape.

Where do we go from here? Version 2. Sept 2, 2018
The Government fails to agree a deal.
(since there is no answer to the problem of Northern Ireland, and the EU will not reshape the EU or change its underlying commitment to the Single Market underpinned by the four freedoms.  
The Labour Party splits on the issue of Brexit and the leadership.
The Conservative Party is divided both on the issue of Brexit and the leadership.
Parliament will not vote in favour of leaving without a deal, or staying in the EU.
Mrs May, as a last throw of the dice, decides the matter must be put to the public in a referendum.
The EU shrugs …. and puts Brexit on hold.
A third party force appears disorganised and lacks leadership. A charismatic group of leave campaigners manages to maintain considerable uncertainty in the minds of the voters. That combined with a sharply reduced turnout blamed on a surfeit of referendums results in a win for the Leave campaign by a whisker.
All sorts of chaos follows. Mrs May resigns – she’s had enough.
A new leader of the Conservative Party is elected. The Conservative Party splits. With paralysis in parliament, the new leader calls a General Election.

A third party force, a coalition of Remain supporters, appears demoralised.  Many Remain supporters in both main parties are deselected, and the General Election is conducted on traditional party lines. The Conservative party win with an increased number of seats but a sharply reduced share of the popular vote. The new leader of the Conservative party promises to form a government bringing cross party elements together. He/she claims a mandate to leave the EU without a deal but commits to binding up the wounds of the Brexit process.
The economy suffers, there is administrative paralysis. The Government blames the EU and declares a state of emergency to give itself special powers.
Scotland focuses on a campaign to achieve independence, with a majority of its population in favour.
The people of the Ireland demand a referendum on unification which threatens to be divisive.
The Government is confident that England will rise, phoenix like, from the ashes.

Sept 2, 2018
Where do we go from here? Version 1.

Brexit is at a critical stage, but little progress appears to have been made over the summer. The arguments and assertions are repetitive and unconvincing.
Let’s jump to the end game.

The Government negotiates a deal or, more likely, fails to agree a deal.
(since there is no answer to the problem of Northern Ireland, and the UK Government cannot sign up to a deal which will badly damage the economy with no tangible clear benefit)
The Labour Party splits on the issue of Brexit and the leadership.
The Conservative Party is divided both on the issue of Brexit and the leadership.
Parliament will not vote in favour either of the deal, if there is one, or leaving without a deal, or staying in the EU.
Mrs May, backed by public opinion, decides the matter must be put to the public in a referendum.
The EU shrugs …. and puts Brexit on hold.
An all party campaign in favour of Remaining demolishes the leave arguments.
The People decide they want to Remain
Mrs May loses a vote of confidence, calls a General Election and resigns – she’s had enough.
A new leader of the Conservative Party is elected. It splits.
The key question for candidates in the General Election campaign is whether or not they will implement the will of the people to remain in the EU.
The least known and unlikely leader of the revamped parties is asked to form a government bringing cross party elements together. He/she claims a mandate to ditch Brexit and remain in the EU but commits to making positive change to Britain’s attitude to Europe, and to effect radical change to the EU from within.

Posted 1 September 2018
The UK is in a period of turmoil, or 'interesting times'. This will be an interesting, even scary, time to keep a diary. There will be many opportunities, and things will go wrong. Facts and errors to become muddled, and short term thinking to be exposed, both nationally, politically and within my diary entries. I hope for the best outcome for the country, for us, and not too much embarrassment when I come to look back at my diary entries.

Blog history

Posted 5 December 2016

An interesting analysis of the BREXIT vote in this LSE Blog post by Sascha O. Becker, Thiemo Fetzer and Dennis Novy, and the suggestion that the failure of our FPTP election system to give adequate representation in our Parliament to UKIP voters could have been a contributory factor to the unexpected result of the BREXIT referendum. Another argument for Fair Votes and Proportional Representation.

Posted 5 December 2016

An interesting analysis of the BREXIT vote in this LSE Blog post by Sascha O. Becker, Thiemo Fetzer and Dennis Novy, and the suggestion that the failure of our FPTP election system to give adequate representation in our Parliament to UKIP voters could have been a contributory factor to the unexpected result of the BREXIT referendum. Another argument for Fair Votes and Proportional Representation.

Posted 18 November 2016
The Housing affordability crisis

The Housing crisis is a problem of affordability, with a number of contributory factors. (I subsequently found this LSE blog post by Daniel Bentley dated Dec 5th 2016)
Houses are 'not affordable' because there are a number of pressures pushing up prices, with little or no balancing brake on the market. At the first sign of any market weakness the government has pumped money in to prop things up. The consequence is prices have continued to rise. Affordable housing is defined in terms of private ‘market’ prices, but the market is out of touch with people’s ability to pay, and so are so called ‘affordable’ prices.

The housing market needs a revitalised social housing sector with rents pegged to average wages, not property prices. We need to build more ‘council’ houses. More Council houses should be combined with the withdrawal of incentives to build or buy private houses. Builders should switch their capacity to building for the public sector. Affordable public sector housing would (in time) represent a property market floor, and an affordable option for anyone. It would require significant government subsidy to get the project moving. If you object to this, consider that this is a sustainable solution, whereas the current market situation is not.

This move should also be combined with a low level land tax (an annual tax on land designated as having development potential. Land not so designated would not get planning permission.)

The attraction of having a market floor would be to restrain private rented accommodation from following privately owned property prices into the stratosphere. Although the number of Council houses might be small to start with, a market can be moved by even a relatively small nudge in the right place. With an injection of public sector capacity and real price competition private sector landlords would have to compete on price and or quality. In due course privately owned property prices would also be moderated but the process would take some time. If the ‘upswing’ has taken 35 years or so, the ‘downswing’ should be comparably gentle.

From ‘Right to buy’ to ‘Help to buy’ Government policies have been misjudged. It is time to reverse this particular ‘Free Market’ dogma.

Posted 9 November 2016
The Internet and Democracy

On the day Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the USA, it may seem strange to compare the Internet with our Democracy. But bear with me.

Is the internet perfect? No.  It has enormous potential for good, and it has done a great deal of good when used responsibly by clever people of goodwill. On the debit side it has facilitated theft and pornography on a vast scale.

Is democracy really the best system? I believe so - democracy has done a great deal of good. It’s better than any other system, at least where you have an educated liberal cohesive electorate, but it’s not perfect. But theft …? pornography..?

Some would say that our democracy has helped the rich get richer while the vast majority of people are not seeing the same benefits. ‘Theft’ ? Perhaps not theft, but levels of inequality have been steadily increasing, and the political system has much to do with it.

Is there such a thing as democratic pornography? Maybe there is a parallel…what about the style of the campaign? How do people vote? What drives them?

Look at it this way …... Our vote is secret. It’s about power but it doesn’t seem like it. You don’t expect your vote to have any consequences. It’s only a fantasy, it’s ‘reality’ entertainment that doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t really matter, you kid yourself your vote is harmless, victimless.
But it isn’t.
We probably deny there is an even darker side - exploitation, hate, violence. But the rise in racism and hate crime can’t be ignored.

I don’t know how to fix the internet. It’s a global thing. But fixing our democracy is in our own hands.

Current levels of inequality in our society are destructive and unacceptable. It is in all our interests to make sure that everyone gets a fair deal and shares in the nation’s prosperity.
Election campaigns have to ‘get real’. Unrealistic expectations have to be seen for what they are. Rhetoric cannot be divorced from reality.
When it comes to the vote, every vote must count. We need to be able to judge the candidates as individuals, and once elected we should expect to be able to look our local MP in the eye.
The result of each election must truly reflect the support for the different political parties. That probably means dynamic coalition governments. A tiny change in the popular vote should not shift policy from one extreme to the other.
To achieve this, we need a form of Proportional Representation.
To get the right balance between Government, the Parties, the MPs, and the people, we need DPR Voting.

Posted 29 October 2016
Bad Policy and Electoral Reform

In an interesting article in the FT (Oct 30) John Kay argues that the UK Government has a poor record of decison making on major projects. He has in mind airport expansion and HS2.
These failures are the fault of our politics. With our adversarial system, politicians look for evidence to support policies, rather than evidence to form policies. Small 'minorities' can tip the balance at an election and change the government. Continuity of policy is lost because the incoming Government reviews and frequently changes policy adopted by the previous Government.

With PR, the adversarial approach is diminished and continuity of Government policy is enhanced. It is often said by proponents of FPTP that PR gives too much power to minority parties. They omit to mention the power of the minority within the electorate that can determine which party forms the government under FPTP.

We seem to be living in an age when policy can be made merely to fill a gap in a public relations campaign, where evidence is fabricated to justify policy, with a malevolent electoral system that is the cause of the problem but also the barrier to change.

Posted 27 September 2016
Party Schisms and Electoral Reform

In a mature democracy with a confident and educated electorate, it is no surprise that any single manifesto of policies fails to receive 50% of electoral support. Opinions are too diverse. Rather than a single political party with an overarching manifesto able to gather widespread support, small parties better reflect the views of the significant sections of the electorate. Many voters are alienated by the compromises and contradictions of the larger party which is trying to be attractive to at least 50% of the electorate.

The First Past the Post electoral system is swimming hard against this tide. It is both the parent and the child of the two party system, rewarding the large parties while making it extremely difficult for a small party to get its candidates elected, and thus have a proportionate influence over Government or the legislative programme. Our democracy has reached the difficult situation where the electoral system is no longer fit for purpose, but at the same time is the democratic barrier to reform – impasse.

To overcome this difficulty larger parties are of necessity informal coalitions with all the tensions and contradictions of coalitions between different parties. The difference is that the electorate may not get the opportunity to express support for the different wings of a larger party, so that the political intention of the Conservative (or Labour) voter may be easy to misconstrue.

This is damaging to our democracy. It is the root cause of the problems of the Labour Party, which is desperately trying to hold disparate political philosophies together for the sake of being able to compete under the existing electoral system. The Conservative Party is not immune. The European schism is a fundamental fault line within the party and the referendum has not solved anything.

Electoral reform is part of the answer, and for the UK, this means a form of Proportional Representation based on the single member constituency. The second part of the solution is finding a process of forming a coalition, which is both democratic and seen to be democratic, so that the resulting coalition Government does indeed attract majority support, albeit with several parties working together.

Posted 13 September 2016
Electoral Reform - the Conservative way

On the face of it redrawing the constituency boundaries may seem to be a move to make the electoral system fairer, and that is what the Government claims. But you can only be persuaded by this argument if you close your eyes to the situation experienced by most smaller parties and the very much more important flaws in our democratic system a) not changing the First Past the Post electoral system we use, and b) reducing the number of MPs, while doing nothing about the House of Lords.

If the Government really wanted a fairer electoral system it would set up a People’s Commission to look at the merits of Proportional Representation compared with First Past the Post. The ultimate aim should be to put a proposal to the people to introduce PR.

Why reduce the number of MPs when this means more work for already overstretched MPs? To save money? It is difficult to put a price on our democracy, but whatever the cost you can only get what you pay for, and these proposed savings are an irrelevant trifle.
Again the situation in cities is one thing, but enlarging rural constituencies makes it so much more difficult for MPs to get to see their constituents, both because of the distances involved and the lack of public transport in some areas.

The issue of gerrymandering is never far from boundary review proposals. This is another reason to choose DPR Voting as the preferred PR system. If party votes are counted nationally, manipulating the individual constituency boundaries gives the gerrymanderer no advantage.

Retaining FPTP and simultaneously reducing the number of MPs will make the system less fair, more disproportional, not more fair. It will exaggerate the erratic nature of our electoral system and make it more difficult for smaller parties to get their MPs elected. The only party it benefits is the Conservative party.

Posted 27 August 2016.
Time to emigrate?

The Daily Telegraph reports that the Prime Minister thinks that it is not necessary to seek parliamentary approval for her to trigger article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and thus make our departure from the EU irrevocable.

But what have the British people actually decided? In short, Britain voted to leave the EU. It’s a bit like a family group of people voting to emigrate. We’ve decided to emigrate, but we haven’t decided where to go. Does the PM really think it’s time to set off?
Posted 10 July 2016.
Europe is not going away. .

The European Divide (Leave/Remain) has been a debilitating influence on British politics for many years. The Referendum was intended to heal the divide in the Conservative party, and perhaps also to bring some UKIP supporters back into the Tory fold. I wonder what proportion of 2015 Conservative voters voted ‘Remain’. Could an unexpected result (and irony) be that political realignment now engulfs British politics?

Despite the referendum, Europe is not going away. In a sense, the referendum has decided nothing. Conservative members may be minded to vote for power rather than policy, but even so the right may divide between those in favour of Europe (the ‘New Conservative Party’), and those against (who may find a ‘New UKIP’ is their natural home). At this stage it is not obvious which party would be the larger.

The Labour party was founded on a class divide which is increasingly seen as anachronistic. It is now consumed by internal wrangling and cannot be considered a credible opposition.

For the sake of our democracy the political parties have to sort this out, even if it means party schisms and re-alignment. The European divide is a more relevant and important divide than the traditional left/right or class based split.

What seems likely is that, with a fragmented opposition, the ‘First Past the Post’ electoral system will have an even more malign influence on British politics than normal. The consequences of these stresses and strains will be social and political upheaval. We won’t have a proper democracy until we change the voting system.

Posted 1 July 2016
A time for change . .

Electoral Reform, Political Realignment, a change to the way we do Referendums - all have never been so badly needed.
This is the time for political re-alignment in the UK with the two main parties in crisis. Alignment must take place along the European divide (EU-Remain / Brexit-Leave)
The European issue is so toxic that both sides cannot be contained within one party. The Conservative party has tried to contain it in vain, to the cost of several Prime Ministers, and ultimately the country. This issue is no less toxic in its effect on the Labour Party.
Our FPTP voting system makes this sort of realignment so much more difficult. The voting system obstructs democracy. A democracy that is too inflexible to change is brittle and dangerous. It breeds extremism.
FPTP has got to go.
Change is going to come.

It may be only a footnote alongside the other reforms we need, but we have to change the way we do referendums.
See Katie Ghose at the ERS for her suggestions.
Posted 27 June 2016
Unforeseen consequences. .

(amongst others).
Two articles - Polly Toynbee and Caroline Lucas suggesting that, as a result of the referendum we need to reconsider electoral reform.
Posted 26 June 2016
And now the band begins to play.

The ‘First Past the Post’ voting system has a significant influence on British politics and is very much part of the Brexit decision environment. Could FPTP also now play an important positive role in the way forward after the Brexit referendum?

The Brexit process will require parliament to bring forward many new bills in order to make Brexit legal and also to replace the many EU based laws laws with home grown versions. It will mean that parliament has little time for much else during the two (or so) year early transitional period. So there are going to be a great deal of parliamentary votes requiring a Brexit majority, if these laws are to be passed.
However there is not a natural Brexit majority in parliament at present, and this situation needs to be addressed. In effect we need a parliament composed of MPs sympathetic to the Brexit vote. The usual way to replace a large number of MPs who are out of tune with the public mood is to call a General Election.

In the present circumstances this needs to be a very special General Election because the outcome must be to elect a parliament of Brexit MPs in order to pass the necessary legislation. Since Brexit is a cross party issue, and parliament will have little time for non Brexit related legislation, party politics should be suspended for the election and the duration of a (shortened) parliament. It could be that party politics would be re-established in time for a General Election in 2020.

To provide the new parliamentary intake of ‘Brexit sympathetic’ MPs the ‘Leave’ campaign group would put forward candidates in each constituency. For the sake of continuity, there would be a presumption that if a sitting MP had declared for ‘Leave’ they would be adopted as the candidate for that same constituency in the new General Election. During the campaign the 'Leave' group would have the opportunity to explain how they intend to proceed, to put forward their plan for the UK outside the EU, and their objectives in the Brexit negotiations.

There would be no party candidates to oppose them, but the ‘Remain’ group could put forward candidates to test the proposals of the ‘Leave’ Group and thus, if elected, form ‘Her Majesties Loyal Opposition’. The Campaign could be both focussed and short. This would give both the members of the new Parliament, and the prospective Prime Minister of the 'Leave' group, democratic legitimacy as well as the votes in parliament to put through the necessary legislation. The new Prime Minister should have the backing of a General Election before invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This democratic legitimacy for the new PM and parliament would also deter the Lords from disruptive delays in passing the legislation.

Although the Referendum result was relatively close, FPTP works reasonably well when there are only two candidates in each constituency. The result should match the democratic wish of the people fairly closely.

A spin off from this course of action could be the re-alignment of British politics based on the Brexit fault line. A re-alignment on this basis is a realistic political necessity if we are to move forward. It might be a culture shock but coalition across the Brexit divide is not practical politics. So for example, this would heal the rift between UKIP and Brexit Tories. Working alongside erstwhile political enemies started during the referendum campaign and could be the future following a General Election and the resulting parliamentary experience. I doubt this would result in two new parties dominating the political landscape but rather could result, in due course, in the rise of several new parties out of the fragments of the old ones.
Posted 23 June 2016
Referendum questions .

With hindsight, today’s referendum asks for a simple answer to a complicated and difficult question. The decision is particularly difficult because it is the choice between the status quo and a change that will result in wide ranging and unknown consequences. A feature of the campaign has been the many and varied outcomes that could result from a ‘Leave’ vote that have been predicted by different commentators.

This seems democratically unsatisfactory to me. In any referendum we should do as much as possible to clarify the alternative outcomes before the referendum campaign begins. We should know what we are voting for. In this case the referendum should have been preceded by a Royal Commission (or similar inquiry) tasked with examining the likely outcomes of both referendum choices. It would not be possible to remove all uncertainty, but it would reduce it. It would also deter both sides from making the more outrageous claims during the campaign.

This would also be the case for a referendum on changing the voting system.

In order to give the electorate a clear choice, any referendum should be the choice between the status quo and a clear alternative. To prepare the ground for a referendum on electoral reform the various possible questions and outcomes need to be investigated.

Firstly - If we were to change our voting system, which system should we adopt?
Secondly - What would be the consequences of adopting the new system, and what would be the consequences of maintaining the present system.

There should be a public inquiry or citizen’s assembly to consider the implications of any proposed constitutional reform and describe the likely outcomes.

Only when these questions have been addressed should we have a referendum on whether or not to implement a particular change.

Posted 19 June 2016
We should value our MPs as individuals.

The killing of Jo Cox was a tragedy.
Rightly it stopped politics and campaigning to allow all to pay their respects. It has reminded us that we should argue the issues, not abuse political opponents.
Furthermore we should value our democratic representatives as individuals who give their time and effort, a huge part of their lives, sometimes at the expense of their health and their own family happiness, to serve their constituents. They don’t do it for the money, but unfortunately they do get dreadful abuse, often anonymously.
In the social media age it is too easy to abuse someone you don’t know. Apart from being intellectually lazy, and essentially dishonest, people do it and, under the anonymity of the internet, get way with it.
Personally I don’t think it is something that we should necessarily legislate about, although I am open to suggestions. Rather we should build a society where such behaviour is shunned, perhaps stigmatised.


In order that we create a politics where those individuals who get involved are properly valued, we should place more emphasis on the individual and less on the MPs as party ciphers.
An electoral system such as DPR Voting, which separates the vote for the party from the vote for the Individual candidate would be an important contribution to this change. We should elect individuals regardless of their party affiliation because they are the individuals who will make the best MPs. Clearly there must also be a vote for the party, regardless of the vote for the individual, so that people can express a view about the party, their policies and thus which party should govern the country.

Let us respect and value our hardworking MPs. Let us elect the very best candidates in a way that is not compromised by considerations of party loyalty. In that way it will be clear that as the elected choice of the people, they have earned our respect and a leading place in their local community.
Stephen Johnson
Neither I nor this website is anonymous. All details are published on WHOIS.
Posted 4 May 2016
Additional Member system voting - not as simple as you thought?

A recent LSE Blog Post by Professor Patrick Dunleavy explains how to use your vote if the election is being conducted using the Additional Member system (as used in Scotland for elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly). If you thought the system was simple and straightforward, this piece is worth reading - it is not simple or intuitive.
Proportional Representation is about the party of your choice having a fair share of the votes in Parliament. That should be one simple vote for the party of your choice. Choosing an MP to represent the constituency should also be one simple vote. That's what you get with DPR Voting. read the post here.
Posted 21 March 2016
Electoral Reform - Conservative style

If the pollsters had a major influence on the last election, the redrawing of Constituency boundaries is going to be a major boost for the Conservative Party in 2020. See Ron Johnston post at the LSE here.
If you just look at the changes, while ignoring the democratic failings of the system as a whole, you might think that the changes being pushed through by the Government could be considered 'reform'. Redrawing the boundaries won't make the system fairer. This is no substitute for a fairer electoral system.
Reducing the number of Constituencies will make the whole system less fair. If you are not sure why, it exacerbates the distortions of FPTP. The more constituencies, the more proportional the system. The fewer constituencies the more likelihood the small parties with widespread support will be wiped out.
It will also put more pressure on MPs. They already have a heavy workload. This will just make it worse.
Do we really need to save this amount of money? What price do you put on our democracy?
Posted 18 February 2016
Electronic voting - House of Commons Library briefing report

The pollsters didn’t forecast a clear Conservative majority. In fact you may have noticed that they didn’t win a majority on the basis of the votes cast.
It was our electoral system ‘wot won it for them’. Funnily enough this hasn’t had much coverage.
If every vote counted equally, the result would have been quite different. It would not have been a majority Conservative Government and the commentary on how each of the parties had done in the election would be quite different.
To add to this, did the poll change the way people voted? Almost certainly, but we cannot know for certain and this will always be a fuzzy area.
FPTP produces a result, but the result can be unpredictable and may not reflect the real balance of votes. A few votes may be all it takes to give one party or the other a sweeping victory. In either case the extent of the victory will be exaggerated and the minor parties will be ignored.
This is why it is liked by some. The proverbial toss of the coin gives ‘strong’ government – but is it democratic? Coalition isn’t easy, but it reflects the balance, the differences in the country as a whole.
Posted 19 January 2016
The Pollsters got it wrong -
The pollsters didn’t forecast a clear Conservative majority. In fact you may have noticed that they didn’t win a majority on the basis of the votes cast.
It was our electoral system ‘wot won it for them’. Funnily enough this hasn’t had much coverage.
If every vote counted equally, the result would have been quite different. It would not have been a majority Conservative Government and the commentary on how each of the parties had done in the election would be quite different.
To add to this, did the poll change the way people voted? Almost certainly, but we cannot know for certain and this will always be a fuzzy area.
FPTP produces a result, but the result can be unpredictable and may not reflect the real balance of votes. A few votes may be all it takes to give one party or the other a sweeping victory. In either case the extent of the victory will be exaggerated and the minor parties will be ignored.
This is why it is liked by some. The proverbial toss of the coin gives ‘strong’ government – but is it democratic? Coalition isn’t easy, but it reflects the balance, the differences in the country as a whole.
Posted 12 January 2016
Lords Reform ...the Shakespeare proposals.
A radical proposal from Tom Shakespeare - Cut the house to 300 'Senators/Peers' made up of 100 independent (cross bencher) Peers appointed by an independent commission for a 15 year term, 100 party political Peers elected by PR List every 5 years, 100 (willing) Peers elected by lottery/random selection from the general population every 5 years.
Well, something must be done... and this might do it for me.
1 Appoint one third of the Cross benchers (for a 15 year term) each five years.
2 change the makeup to 40% party, 40% Crossbench, 20% Random,
3 Elect the 'Party' peers by a PR list election (at the same time as the General Election every 5 years and include a vote to review these percentages. How would that work? Linked to the PR list election there would be three suggestions for increasing the number of one category by 5% and reducing the other categories proportionately to maintain the total of 300. (one vote, three options, calculate a weighted result) In practice the changes would be small, but allow a mechanism for voters to change the mix over time.
Posted 29 December 2015
Towards the turn of the year..
An article by Chris Hanretty (LSE Blog) about the local 'disproportionality' of our election results. With the media only seeing the election result through the prism of seats won in the FPTP electoral system (the light from a prism that you see has been bent ...) it is easy to forget that the failure of the system to produce a fair and proportional result is not confined to the national picture, but also distorts results and disenfranchises voters on a local and regional basis.
Posted 2 November 2015
After a long silence
I have not commented on the many political issues over the summer that in themselves make the case for electoral reform, but I have made an exception for this interesting article from Nat Le Roux, and in particular his analysis of the disconnect between votes cast and the 2015 UK election 'result' .
'In the era of two-party politics, the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system, while unfair to smaller parties, could be defended on the grounds that it produced strong single-party governments. In the new era of multi-party politics, FPTP generates outcomes which seem merely perverse to many voters.'
Leaving aside electoral pacts, the mention of AV is a disappointment.
Why no electoral reform? Too many politicians ... 'whatever their private intellectual misgivings, had a very strong interest in maintaining the current voting system'.
Posted 28 May 2015
The Queen's Speech

Much is being made of the fact that we have a strong Government able to implement its full manifesto programme of Government, albeit with a slim majority. The votes the Government has in the Parliament enable it to implement its programme. The weakness of the opposition is clear in that the combined strength of the opposition can do nothing to stop the Government from implementing its programme unless it can get some support from within the Government party.
It is an irony that the last line of opposition is in the bloated House of Lords, also badly in need of reform.
This vacuum of opposition in the lower house will, at some point, encourage MPs in the Government party to act as the effective opposition to the Government programme.
Rather than a strong Government, FPTP results in a weak opposition, which in turn can result in a weak Government and a disfunctional parliament that does not reflect the way in which people voted in the election. It is not healthy for our democracy.
Posted 12 May 2015
Parliamentary democracy, or the toss of a two sided coin?

The treatment of minor parties by the First Past the Post electoral system has degenerated into an arrogant dismissal of the votes of a quarter of the population. It used to be that if you didn't vote for one of the main two parties you would be ignored. And make no mistake, if your party has no votes in the parliament, you will be ignored. Now Scotland has found that it's not your vote, but where you vote, that counts.
The argument that claims that we have a parliamentary representative democracy looks increasingly threadbare.
What next? Don't forget that we are governed, not because one party got the most votes - most people voted for other parties - but because we choose to be governed.
The election is decided by the FPTP electoral system not because it is democratic, but because we choose to accept it.

If those who gain power and benefit from a broken electoral system take no steps to put it right, how is that different from corruption?
Posted 8 May 2015
Did you kick your MP out?

Today, many good, decent, hard working MPs lost their place in the House of Commons. No doubt there were also some who deserved to lose.
How many of those lost because their electorate voted for the party rather than the individual? Conversely how many MPs were elected on the basis of their party affiliation rather than their own personal merit?

How different would it have been if DPR Voting had been used to conduct the election? It is not possible to say. Certainly more ‘well-loved' individual constituency MPs would have been voted back on their own merit even if their party still took a hammering.

If we elected MPs on personal merit in my view this would be a recipe for having better constituency MPs in Parliament, and more engagement of the electorate with the political process.
Posted 4 May 2015
The Ferocious Electoral Reform debate

An interesting post on the LSE Election blog titled What would the election look like under PR? It puts the case for 'Small District PR' and shows how the election result might be under such a system. It draws my attention to the special relevance of Scotland, and the part it will play in the debate.

If we want a PR system that works for Scotland , perhaps the ways in which Scotland benefits from the present electoral system of constituency boundaries needs to be addressed.

If the argument is that constituencies should be equalised, while this may seem fair, it may also be seen as a partisan response to the SNP success.

Some PR systems, eg the subject of your article, require the use of Multi member constituencies. This would change the nature of the election and campaigning in Scotland because of the far greater geographical size of many of the constituencies.

It may be considered desirable for Scotland to have, on average, smaller constituencies than in other parts of the country. What seems less acceptable is that the Scottish constituencies collectively have relatively more votes in parliament than the rest of the UK . (parliamentary votes per electorate).

Direct Party and Representative Voting has a unique contribution to this debate. (Further post to follow)
Posted 28 April 2015
Electoral Reform 2020?

The Independent editorial today argues that the case for electoral system is stronger than ever. It doesn't attempt to say what will replace First Past the Post, and how this will come about.
Coalition phobia is not the only objection to PR. Both front runner PR systems, have their proponents, and their detractors. The Electoral Reform Society could itself prove to be a barrier to change because it is wedded to the Single Transferable Vote, a ‘marmite' system which is anathema to many. The Additional Member System is used in Scotland and Wales , but this requires a mix of constituency and ‘List' MPs. Excessive Party control over ‘List' MPs, with a resulting fault line running through each parliamentary party concerns many.
How do we bring electoral reform about? We will need a UK constitutional convention prepared to consider radical solutions such as a PR system based on the existing single member constituencies with simple voting and counting, with a referendum in 2020 to coincide with the General Election.
Posted 27 April 2015
UK Constitutional reform

A very interesting piece of speculation from Ben Judah in Politic.Eu about how constitutional reform, including electoral reform may come about see here.
I think it could and should take more than the two year timescale suggested. Agreeing to PR is one thing. Agreeing on a new system is another. And then there's The House of Lords, Europe, Devolution ...
Posted 13 April 2015
UKIP would scrap FPTP

UKIP proposes scrapping the first-past-the-post voting system and replacing it with a new electoral system "in which every vote counts".
This should be applauded, but it would be interesting to know which system they would like to introduce to replace it.

UKIP's constitutional reform proposals include a move to hold a referendum on the most popular petitions. In my view any petitions should be constructed so that votes against the proposal can be recorded. A successful petition would then not only need to achieve over the threshold number of votes in favour eg 2m, but should also achieve a certain percentage of votes in favour, say two thirds or 66.7% .
Posted 4 April 2015
An incentive to vote?

A lottery element to voting – a free equal chance prize draw for everyone who votes in a General Election – might seem objectionable, but maybe shouldn’t be written off completely. What if the prize for the lucky winner is to appoint one additional MP from any of the unsuccessful candidates?

It would give every voter a tangible chance of making a significant difference, and a real incentive for those voters who otherwise may feel that their vote would make no difference.
In the last parliament, if a UKIP supporter had won, they might have appointed Nigel Farage, thus giving UKIP a presence in the house.

The publicity associated with the election of a wildcard MP could be considerable, and generate quite a buzz for the democratic process. Many of us like a lottery, and the person who wins, unless they opted for no publicity, could count on their fifteen minutes of fame.

Posted 3 April 2015
Could the SNP conquer England?
Further to the success of SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon in the election debate, for the sake of democracy, should the electorate in the rest of the UK be able to vote SNP in the election? The electoral system that retains our constituency system that could make this possible is DPR Voting, where voters could use their party vote to support the SNP. Of course it won't happen in this election.
The SNP like any other political party is a team determined to implement its policy manifesto. If you like the policies and you trust the team, you ought to be able to vote for them. We are all one nation, aren't we? The SNP doesn't have candidates on the ground across England. But after last night they probably have more support than before, and not just native Scots who happen to live in England.
Posted 3 April 2015
Do women voters lean in towards women leaders?
This interesting comment from Pippa Norris about the influence of women on the forthcoming election is well worth reading.
Posted 26 March 2015
Common Decency
This initiative looks very worthwhile. I think the DPR Voting system could be a brilliant fit with the core philosophy
Posted 11 March 2015
How well would STV perform?
One thing on my mind is 'How well would STV perform in the current multiparty political environment?' Assumptions have to be made about how large the multimember constituencies would be, and this might be particularly sensitive in Scotland where a multimembr constituency in the Highlands might well be quite a stretch for all concerned. I suspect the system would have to be tailored to fit the current political environment, and this seems a poor basis for introducing a system that needs to last many parliamentary terms. You can't keep tinkering without somebody reasonably calling 'foul'. Here is an interesting article by David Farrell published in the Democratic Audit.
Also of interest a criticism of FPTP by Ed Straw pointing to the costs we incur.
Posted 5 March 2015
A hung parliament is inevitable....
Based on five forecasts - read here.
Posted 26 February 2015
An electoral reform crescendo
You won't want to miss The Economist (Feb 21) and this LSE Election Forecast blog (Feb 26)
Posted 17 February 2015
A Letter from the Bishops
You may hear many people commenting on what the Bishops have to say. To make sense of it, you may wish to read the original text.
And for interest a Comment piece in The Guardian
Posted 16 February 2015
What do we want our electoral system to do?
This is the inherent question from Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University at the end of a piece on the LSE Blog about the strange results that seem likely in the coming election detailed in his report 'The Lottery Election'.
Posted 10 February 2015
Four options for configuring the British constitution
Joel Suss on the LSE Blog with food for thought.
and a related LSE Blog topic, Matthew Flinders on 'Politicians should heed the calls for a citizen-led constitutional convention'
What would you put on the agenda?
The structure (or break up, or devolution?) for the UK
Voting reform, both for the House of Commons and the Lords.
Local Government reform
Perhaps we have to start at the top and decide on our relationship with Europe.
Lords reform - see Guardian Editorial.
In my view, An elected Lords could be OK, but keep voting as simple as possible. Party List PR would be OK but only if the Party bias in the voting system was balanced by allowing voters to vote 'Independent' - a vote for a list of ‘official' independent candidates put forward by an ‘independent peers' commission (in addition to a small number of ex officio independent peers.) That way the number of independent ‘peers' in the Lords could find its democratic level, rather than being 'fixed'.
Posted 3 February 2015
Post Election scenarios
Philip Cowley  discusses four issues that ought to be given more consideration during discussions of various post-election scenarios. An excellent article - required reading!
Posted 23 January 2015
The defence of Fixed Term Parliaments
Fixed-term Parliaments are good for UK democracy and the Act should stay, argues Petra Schleiter on the LSE Blog.
When so much needs to be done, the introduction of Fixed term Parliaments is one of the few positive constitutional reforms that the Coalition has managed to introduce. Repealing the act would be a woeful retrogressive step.
Posted 14 January 2015
The SNP to benefit from a broken system
The latest 2015 UK Parliamentary Election Forecast puts Labour 32% - 283 seats and Conservative 33% - 281 seats neck and neck. FPTP may well cause very odd results amongst the other parties with Lib Dems on 14% -27 seats, UKIP on 11% - 3 seats, Greens on 4% - 1 seat, and SNP on 3% - 34 seats! UKIP will rightly feel aggrieved. The SNP will be the main beneficiary of a broken system.
Posted 8 January 2015
The OFCOM Invitation to the Party Leader debate
Should the Green Party Leader be allowed to join in the Party Leader election debate? Is it votes or seats that matter to Ofcom? It should be votes - our rubbish electoral system distorts everything.
Based on current opinion polls, 5% of the vote should be more than enough for a party to be represented in the debate. Too many parties? Maybe democracy is not for you.
Posted 7 January 2015
Electoral Reform on the agenda
We need to change our voting system. It verges on the corrupt in the same way that bankers salaries do. Those who have the power to make a change are the beneficiaries of the rotten status quo.
You may consider STV but the logic of our electoral system is that there are two questions for voters to answer – which party does the voter want to run the country, and which person to be their MP. For proper accountability this needs two votes, and points to the Scottish AMS system, known as MMP elsewhere.
But rather than appoint additional list MPs to achieve PR (which nobody likes) let’s share out the votes for each party proportionately amongst the elected MPs. This gives a voting system similar to AMS but with all MPs elected to a single member constituency, same number of MPs, same constituency boundaries, and no party list MPs. If we decide to get rid of FPTP it would be much simpler and cheaper to introduce (no boundary changes).
Posted 1 January 2015
The Election and Electoral Reform
Happy New Year!
2015 will bring a General Election in the UK. It is likely that more than a third of voters, perhaps almost a half, will vote for candidates of a party who will have virtually no chance of winning the election and forming or leading a Government. They will vote in the hope that the party of their choice will have some influence over the Government and the shape of our politics for the next five years.
FPTP works against these voters, and after the election results are declared and analysed and the fickle destructive and undesirable effects of FPTP when used in a multi party situation are exposed, Electoral Reform will be back on the public agenda.
Posted 27 December 2014
Calls for MPs to use electronic voting for Parliamentary Divisions
Jimmy Wales, one of the founders of Wikipedia, has called for MPs to vote electronically in the House of Commons. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme, with Guest Editor John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, he said: “There are probably some good reasons for voting electronically within Parliament. “The security risks would be minimal, you would have a good record of what people said and you would speed up the process so that Parliament could get more done.” See also a paper from 2010 by Caroline Lucas MP.
Posted 18 December 2014
Open up: The future of the Political Party
Today the Electoral Reform Society publishes a new report – Open Up: the future of the political party. 'This is the first step in a long-term investigation into how parties – and particularly the older, more mainstream parties – can modernise to meet the needs of the 21st century voter.'
If politics is a market, then parties are the product brands and the electoral system determines how the market operates.
First Past The Post rigs the market. What we need is a free market... !
Posted 16 December 2014
No more parachuting in - Bagehot in The Economist
An interesting article in The Economist drawing attention to the changes in British politics, the importance of the MP as a representative of a local constituency, the need for a clear party mandate, and how this emphasises the shortcomings of First Past the Post. Without naming it Bagehot makes a good case for DPR Voting.
Posted 16 November 2014
Reforms needed to re-engage public with politics and elections
Political and Constitutional Reform Committee launches a report on possible reforms to re-engage British people with politics and elections. link
My view? Electoral reform, Proportional Representation, is essential,
What could change? The end of 'Campaign by Marginals' and 'Safe Party seats'. Every voter would know their vote is important - Every vote should make a difference.
But not all PR systems are equal. Retaining both local constituency representatives and simple voting and counting is vital so as not to damage existing voter engagement. That rules out most PR systems.
But not all.
Posted 22 July 2014
DPR Voting and Gender Balance
A new variant of DPR Voting could change the Gender Balance in the House of Commons significantly. see here. The modification encourages equal numbers of candidates of both sexes. The number of candidates of each sex who get elected would be more nearly equal. This variant of the system could produce a gender balanced parliament, without the need for positive discrimination or bias within the electoral system, but with a built in self correcting mechanism.

Posted 31 December 2013
Look back in anger
Time to look back - depressing how little there is to delete from this list compiled at the end of 2011.
(Posted 24 December 2011)
Significant current scandals, and those yet to come
In no particular order

Top salaries and bonuses - boardroom and shareholder individual responsibility
The multiple between top and average pay
Lawyers fees - the cost of the legal process
Medical negligence claims against the NHS
Care and treatment in the NHS
"No win, no fee" personal injury compensation
Democracy and the voting system
Lords reform
Political party funding
The domestic energy market and pricing
The Tax system and its inefficiencies and complexities
Subsidies for new energy generation schemes
The amount of crime fuelled by Drugs
The availability of drugs in prison.
The power of the press barons over political parties, politicians and the police.
The power of the press to influence the National Agenda
The structure of the banking system.
Unsustainable business models, big money and corruption in sport

Posted 11 December 2013
DPR Voting on YouTube
Have a look at this YouTube video expaining DPR Voting. It was produced independently in Canada by Marilyn Reid. I can claim no credit. Marilyn has done a great job. I hope it will help people to think more about proportional representation. DPR Voting on YouTube

Posted 3 May 2013
Time to plan for PR
The UKIP success across England in the County Council elections should reignite the debate over electoral reform. However the Conservative and Labour parties, and maybe the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to engage in the discussion until after the 2015 election.
If UKIP establishes itself as a party with a similar share to the Lib Dems, the argument for electoral reform will be debated against new anomalies that will be thrown up by the FPTP voting system. If the votes are divided four ways, or even five, it will be seen that the two party system has been rejected by the electorate. It will be increasingly absurd for one party to claim an absolute majority in the House of Commons, purely on the basis of an electoral system designed for a two party contest, if this is not backed up by the popular vote.
The parties should start re-thinking their policy on PR now.
Posted 22 Apr 2013
Britain’s great divide
The Economist has a Leader about Britain’s great divide – the North-South Labour-Conservative split. It argues that Geography now trumps both social class and employment as a factor that determines voting intention.
‘Britain’s first-past-the-post system for electing MPs is also a barrier. Yes, it is simple and can create strong governments, but it saps the will of parties to fight in places where they have no chance of winning.’ It is known that First Past the Post leads to a two party system (Duverger’s Law) but it also seems that it leads to party support being split into two geographical/tribal areas.
Introducing Proportional Representation would encourage parties to campaign countrywide rather than just in marginal constituencies. It would also change the confrontational and tribal nature of our politics.
Posted 5 Apr 2013
Is 'Firm Government' a reason for keeping FPTP
‘Firm Government’ is often claimed as benefit of 'First Past the Post' and therefore is a good reason for keeping it. This raises several questions. What do we mean by democracy, what place do political parties have, and what is the purpose of an electoral system?

Democracy has its problems, but it is a better system than any other. One problem is that voters favour different policy ideas that are sometimes difficult to reconcile. Political parties are a shorthand way of describing a political ethos and, at election times, a raft of policies. The purpose of an electoral system is to gauge support for the different political parties ie the different rafts of policies, and thus choose a party of government.

The question then arises – ‘Should we have an electoral system that gives results that accurately reflect the support that each party really has at the time of the election?’
And secondly, ‘If the electorate is truly split in their support for the parties and no one party can claim a majority, how do we proceed?’

I believe that in a democracy the electoral system should be designed to measure the electoral support for each party accurately. I don’t believe that a dictatorship would be better than a democracy. Similarly an electoral system that results in an artificially large government majority at the expense of minority parties when there is no majority support for such a government is not as truly democratic as one that gives an accurate, albeit inconclusive result.

However an inconclusive result does not necessarily lead to either a firm or a weak government – that is just as much down to the politicians. For example a government with a large majority can be weak if it is riven internally. Similarly a coalition government can be strong if there is good agreement amongst the parties about their aims and objectives.

All parties are coalitions of different factions. Sometimes it is difficult to contain these factions together in one party. When voting for a party that contains various factions the electorate does not know which faction will prove to be dominant in government. FPTP punishes small parties so that there is little likelihood of these factions being tempted to put their manifesto to the country as a separate party.

We haven’t really worked out how to deal with an inconclusive election result, and how a coalition can truly claim a mandate for a raft of policies that have not been put to the electorate directly. It would be better to solve this issue than sticking with FPTP. After all, FPTP is not a solution to this problem, and it is a bad system in many other ways.

Having said that how we elect individual Members of Parliament is also a crucial part of our democracy, and there are a host of issues that can be debated. Direct Party and Representative Voting is intended to address the problems of FPTP, in particular gauging support for the political party but also the individual MP, but no electoral system, in my view, satisfactorily solves the problem of an inconclusive election by itself.
Posted 3 Mar 2013
Italy's '5 Star' election
One result of the Italian election is that 162 new ‘5 Star’ (Beppe Grillo’s party) MPs have been elected by means of a regional party list system. People voted for their party, but not for these particular individuals. They may be largely unknown to the people who elected them. They have not been tested by their local community, the people who know them, in a constituency election. The electorate has had to rely on the party to select these individuals, to weed out the weaker candidates and the bad apples.
They may prove to be a refreshing change. Inexperience is not necessarily a problem, but they were voted in as party representatives, not for their personal characteristics or track record. Individually they lack the democratic credentials of MPs who have stood for election as individuals in a local constituency and have won more votes in their local community than the other candidates.
Before we get too smug in the UK, we should consider that too many of our MPs only get elected because they can ride on a party label. It would be better if we could vote both for the party and for the candidate without conflating the two.
Posted 28 Feb 2013
The Eastleigh By-Election
There are 14 candidates in the Eastleigh by-election. Is this a sign of a healthy democracy or is the ballot paper much bigger than it needs to be? More choice is not a better choice. More than half these candidates have not the slightest chance of being elected.

To be properly nominated, a candidate papers need to be signed by 10 electors. A candidate must also deposit £500. Why are so few signatures required, and why must a candidate have £500 spare? Any candidate with any chance of being elected must be able to demonstrate that they have substantially more than 10 supporters.

Democracy would be better served if each candidate was required to obtain a much larger number of supporting signatures, perhaps 50, with some safeguarding to prevent nominations being invalidated on a technicality. Then the deposit could be scrapped completely.
Democracy is about supporters and votes, not cash.
Posted 24 Feb 2013
Ashcroft pulls plug on Tory donations
What’s wrong with this headline? It’s wrong that one person can have extraordinary influence over the next General Election. Influence, because he donates a lot of money, and influence because this money can make a disproportionate difference by being focussed on winning in a limited number of marginal constituencies.
We have to put this right – we have to reform party funding, and reform the electoral system.
Easier said than done because the prize for the party that benefits most from the existing arrangements, both in terms of party funding and the electoral system, is the political power to block any reform.
Posted 2 Feb 2013
Proportional Representation and Party Politics
Some campaigners present Proportional Representation as a way to achieve party political advantage or achieve a political goal perceived to be not currently achievable by other political means. This is happening to some extent in Canada at present. The danger is this approach makes a powerful blocking enemy of one of the parties, probably the Government party.

Bearing in mind this has to be a long game, a better approach is to build altruistic cross party support for a reform to strengthen democracy, rather than to achieve a short term party political goal. After all, any reform has to stand the test of time.

Electoral reformers should reach out to all politicians, and present the case for electoral reform in terms of the democracy and national benefit.
Posted 30 Jan 2013
Reduction of MPs and boundary revision killed off
What were the Lib Dems thinking when they originally supported this measure? Reducing the number of MPs makes an unfair electoral system (FPTP) even unfairer. If this measure had been linked to the introduction of a proportional electoral system, it would be justified, but it wasn’t. The link to Lords Reform is much weaker, although arguable, but I doubt that argument will be heard.
I wonder if public and political attitudes will have changed by 2018 when the measure will be reconsidered.
Posted 23 Jan 2013
The Incumbency effect
There is an interesting piece of research on the ‘incumbency effect’ just published by Timothy Hallam Smith, University of Nottingham. This is the observed fact that an elected representative (the incumbent) tends to have an electoral advantage over challengers and that this is very much higher for Lib Dem MPs than their Lab and Con counterparts.

It shows that even under the current system voters are partly influenced in how they vote by the performance of their MP.

There are two important implications for DPR Voting.
With DPR Voting the desire to support the voters preferred party need not influence the choice of the MP. Thus voters are even more likely to vote for the best individual when they choose their MP. This would tend to improve the democratic credentials of elected MPs in the House of Commons.
Secondly the research finds that Lib Dem MPs tend to benefit from a higher incumbency effect than their Lab or Con counterparts. The DPR Voting hypothesis is that if the ratio of supporters to high calibre candidates is roughly similar across each significant political party a small party, eg Lib Dems, will have higher quality candidates in their fewer winnable seats (and fight more focussed campaigns). As a result of FPTP, proportionately fewer of their candidates get elected. When they do overcome the FPTP hurdle and are elected their (higher calibre) MPs benefit from a higher incumbency effect.
This argument supports the suggestion that with DPR Voting smaller parties will get proportionately more MPs elected than they would under FPTP so that as well as benefiting from a proportionate number of parliamentary votes, the number of MPs elected would also be more proportional than under FPTP.

Posted 12 Jan 2013
Party Political Funding
George Monbiot published this interesting proposal for political party funding in the Guardian 30th October 2012 and on his blog.
‘Each party would be able to charge the same, modest fee for membership (perhaps £50). It would then receive matching funding from the state, as a multiple of its membership receipts. There would be no other sources of income.’
This is an excellent proposal for reasons George identifies.
My queries are:
How would you treat party assets (eg a building) that generates (eg rental) income for the party? Would you ban fundraising by local political activists to fund local party organisation activities? Would/could you stop a rich party member funding a social event in order to recruit members? How do you deal with gifts of goods, equipment or services? Rich people can be casually generous to a cause they support.
Posted 3 Dec 2012
Leveson 2
'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing'

One thing you could do, if you feel inclined, is to sign the petition to get Government to implement the Leveson recommendations.
132925 signatures so far (Dec3)
Posted 30 Nov 2012
Leveson 1
No, I haven't read the umpteen page report.
I had hoped it would deal with the question of press ownership, but so far I have heard little on this topic. Is there a charity based model for newspapers supported by disinterested philanthropy?
On the main thrust of the report I had hoped there would be a political consensus.
I still hope that the report will be acted on because of the strength of public opinion.
'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing'
Perhaps I should start by reading the report.
Posted 23 Nov 2012
Will you vote for an MP who travels?
MPs are in the news for being away abroad – either on fact finding missions or taking extended holidays.
This may be perfectly proper, but how will you vote at the next election? With FPTP you only have the one vote and most people want to have a say in which party is elected to government. They use their vote accordingly. You can’t at the same time vote for your preferred party and against the candidate of that preferred party. As a result, most people vote for the party regardless of what they think of the party candidate, and second rate MPs get elected.
DPR Voting gives you the choice to vote both for your preferred party and for the best candidate. It is a system that is both fairer, gives the voter more choice, and would reduce the number of second rate MPs in the House.
Posted 18 Nov 2012
In praise of local politics, post code lotteries, and bad decisions
Politicians are not perfect, they are not even all the same, but that doesn’t make politics worthless. At the moment, more and more people don’t care about politics, and make easy negative judgements from a distance. Those involved in politics see a more nuanced picture, but the FPTP voting system is just as likely to encourage them to make negative comments that rub off on both politicians and politics in general.

Part of the solution is to make politics more relevant. This means being confronted by issues - the debate, the decision, and the consequences - that directly affect you. National politics may be the big picture, but there is nothing like a local issue for immediacy and for getting people engaged.

This is just one reason why local politics needs to be revitalised. Local councils must have more freedom - power and authority (and the control of the money, the freedom to raise local taxes) so that councillors can take real decisions that have an impact on local people. They must even be able to get it wrong without the decision being overturned by some central arbiter. It will mean more ‘post code lotteries’, because one town wants to provide a service for its people when another doesn’t. Vive la différence.

Local people should be able to influence their councillors. Bad decisions get people fired up, gets them campaigning, involved. But if this has no impact, and the central juggernaut carries on regardless, then all that involvement is a frustrating waste of time.

Bad decisions also get people involved when the next election comes along – it gets people standing for office because it matters. But if the voting system makes change unattainable so that the donkey with the right colour rosette gets elected again, then all that aspiration is pointless.

So changing the voting system to a more proportional system is a vital reform, and here a system where you can rank the candidates in a multimember council ward, such as STV, has much to recommend it. PR for Westminster is another essential part of the reform.

Keeping the power and the purse strings in the centre emasculates local politics. Politics becomes a remote activity that is opaque and unexplained. Change local politics, show people that they can make a difference, and the involvement will trickle up.

Furthermore, people will see what can be done but that it takes effort. They will know from first hand how difficult a complicated issue can be, and more people will know from experience that most politicians get involved because they want to make a difference.
Posted 12 Nov 2012
The US Presidential Election
Barack Obama was elected with 332 votes (50.6% of the popular vote)
Mitt Romney got 206 votes (47.9% of the popular vote)
Clearly there is very little relation between the votes cast that actually elected the President and the individual votes cast by the electorate.
One candidate could get a majority of electoral college votes and so be elected President, despite getting fewer votes than his/her opponent. A third candidate has no chance.
This is not one person one vote democracy. This is a ‘First past the post' election.
Posted 26 Oct 2012
The British General Election of 2010 Under Different Voting Rules
This study shows how much depends on the voting system. It is a shame it doesn't appear to cover AMS/MMP as well. I have only so far read the abstract but I imagine we will be hearing more about this study.
Posted 22 Oct 2012
Where now on electoral reform? (France!)
Mark Wright on Lib Dem Voice argues for a new approach to Electoral reform. He has the right analysis, but in my view the wrong solution.

We need to look at the arguments against AV and neutralise them: a system that’s better than FPTP, doesn’t involve boundary changes, doesn’t involve preferential voting and isn’t more complicated for voters.

This should be the nub of the electoral reform debate – not the merits of various PR systems, but how to win over those who would otherwise vote for FPTP.

Simple voting and counting – so voters can’t be confused by the prospect of change
No constituency or boundary changes - so MPs can be more objective
Cheap and easy to introduce

DPR Voting ticks the boxes.
There is no perfect system – we need the system that is better than FPTP and doesn’t alienate those who otherwise will support the status quo.

Posted 13 Oct 2012
Votes for 16 years olds?
Votes for 16 year olds? A referendum is one thing, but if 16 year olds get the vote for Westminster, many of them are going to be very disappointed, at least as long as we have the ‘First Past the Post’ voting system. Like opening a birthday present, and having torn off the wrapping paper finding that the present has been broken in the post.

But then shock and disappointment followed by frustration and anger could lead to demand for change from a section of the community who have both the energy and time to make it happen. Giving 16 year olds the vote may seem a minor change. Another brick in the wall? Hopefully it will happen and inject more life into our politics.
Posted 3 Oct 2012
One Nation?
Being the party conference season, there has been much discussion about the possibility of a hung parliament at the next election. I think this is an unlikely result, at least when the votes are counted by the FPTP electoral system.

What seems much more likely is that there will be no party with an overall majority of votes. It's a possibility that Labour might win more seats but less votes than the Conservatives, or vice versa.

The disparity between votes cast in the election and the votes each of the parties has in the parliament should be regarded as a public scandal.

If the Labour party believes in ‘One Nation’ it should put electoral reform into its agenda and find a ‘One Nation’ electoral system to replace FPTP.

Posted 20 Sept 2012
The Clegg Apology
Apologies work best when they are prompt and sincere. The apology from Nick Clegg may be, in the long run, good for the Lib Dems and for British politics. As far as the Lib Dems are concerned the whole sorry episode will make them far more careful about making electoral promises, and especially about making promises on the basis that they will never be held to account for them. I would like to think this will rub off on all the parties, both government and opposition parties so that we get a more mature election debate without politicians succumbing to the temptation to promise the impossible or the unaffordable.
Is this likely? Sadly not while we retain the 'winner takes all' 'First Past the Post' system.
Posted 18 Sept 2012
Hiring and Firing
A thought to contribute to the the dilemma of supporting good employers who need a flexible workforce, but not giving a bad employer a licence to treat people badly (or protection for the genuinely blameless employee without making the lazy incompetent fireproof.. ...
If basic statistics of each companies track record of hiring and firing were statutory public knowledge - numbers hired in past few years, (Full time, part time, temporary) and numbers made redundant, numbers fired, numbers who left of their own free will - would the resulting public scrutiny of this aspect of a companies performance act to improve the management approach to their labour force?
Posted 8 Sept 2012
Planning incentives and the housing market
Two interesting pieces in the Financial Times today.
The leader article ‘A vain appeal to Britain 's builders'
subtitled ‘Planning reforms will not secure homes the country needs.'
Property treading water? Sinking, more like – the Somerset Merryn Webb Column

The leader article says ‘The key to getting more houses built is not to dangle planning incentives. These are banked by the industry and used to finance houses or conservatories that would have been built anyway. The industry does not lack spaces on which to build. The problem is that it chooses not to, hoarding its scarce landbank with the aim of building when prices are better.

In her column, SMW explains that property prices (in real terms) are falling.
National Property price statistics are propped up by foreign buyers buying prime property in London . The property market depends on supply (plenty) and demand (weak). The demand that matters is demand from people with the money to buy.
‘Adding new capacity (building new homes) into markets where falling prices suggest existing over capacity isn't usually a good thing for prices.
The resulting economic activity can be a good thing but, as the British Property Foundation says 'simply building homes for non existent buyers has been tried before in Spain and Ireland with disastrous consequences.‘

This suggests to me that the House market needs buyers who have (or can borrow) the money, to buy. Boosting the supply side – incentives to builders, easier planning permission, is not the answer - nor is trying to get people to take on more debt than they can manage. That's one of the things that got us into trouble in the first place.

So it is going to take time and quite a lot of it – time to save up those deposits for a reasonably priced mortgage, time for house prices to be gently eroded, time for the value of our money to be eroded, time for cash to be recycled from the older generation to the younger, and time for people to adjust to new ideas of living, to come to terms with the idea that it is cheaper to live together than to live on your own, and the latter may just not be affordable. It's going to take us, and the economy time to adjust to these new circumstances.
Shortcuts (such as a house building induced price crash or artificially boosted housing finance) may well be more painful, won't solve the problem, and will just delay the necessary economic adjustment.
Posted 26 August 2012
Polly Peck and Party Political funding
Whether or not the Conservative Party should hand back the £440,000 donated by Polly Peck may have generated a lot of interest.
The real question is' What is the justification for any company or organisation giving other people's money to a political party?'

Foreign individuals are already banned from making donations to UK political parties by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act of 2001. For some reason the law thinks it's OK for UK companies to make donations.
1 In effect minority shareholders can be compelled to make a donation against their wishes.
2 Such shareholders may also be foreign individuals, thus getting round the 2001 act, as the law stands.
The same applies to organisations, groups or trades unions.
The only justifiable party political donations are when individuals, who are entitled to vote, act independently of their own volition. This helps sort out the question of whose money it is. Such amounts should be limited to a reasonable figure – say £10,000pa. per individual.

Yes, it would herald a very different, but more honest and democratic, political era.
Posted 16 August 2012
MMP, NewZealand, and 'Overhang'
New Zealand, which uses the MMP electoral system is considering the problem of ‘overhang’. This is a feature of their MMP electoral system. Provided a party gets one constituency MP elected, the system allows additional members to be elected from a list in order to achieve proportionality in terms of overall votes in the Parliament. The problem is that, for some parties, the number of their constituency MPs elected may be larger than the party should be allowed under the proportionality rules. This means there are extra MPs in the parliament, known as overhang.
There is a proposal, as part of the solution, to abolish the one seat threshold. A consequence of this is that it will remove the incentive for any small party to contest an electoral constituency. This seems a retrograde step.
While I see that the ‘one seat threshold’ may be seen as a barrier to small parties, the counter argument is that any party should have its candidates and policies closely examined – ‘face to face’.
Equally a small party of adequate substance and organisational ability should attract enough individuals with the skills, personality and constituency work record to get at least one candidate elected under MMP, provided there is a reason to try, and provided constituencies are not too big..It seems like a reasonably democratic test of a party’s substance.

If New Zealand adopted DPR Voting there would be no overhang problem. However the question as to whether there should be an incentive for small parties to contest constituency elections, or that this should be removed, also applies to DPR Voting. In practice electoral systems are almost always adapted to local needs, so that it is quite usual to find notionally the same electoral system operating with local variations in different countries.

Posted 22 July 2012
Tory donor pays back £2m to taxman (Mail on Sunday)
These and other related scandals tarnish politics, and all politicians, by association. We should reform party funding rules forcing political parties to adopt a low cost decentralised existence and to rely on their mass membership, rather than wealthy individuals, companies, charities or unions. As with football, big money in politics relegates the fans to the sidelines. Smaller, more passionate, organisations would put life back into politics.

Posted 19 July 2012
The state of politics
Politicians should not be surprised that they are collectively held in low esteem.They bring it on themselves.
How? Every time they criticise the person rather than the policy, or they are aggressive or rude rather than enthusiastic and passionate. Similarly every time they are negative rather than positive, or overstate their case. or they fail to acknowledge the good when arguing for the better.
Every ‘Prime Minister’s Question Time’ does a little more damage.The media just follows this lead, and it makes their job easy.
What is the public meant to think?

Change would require radically different political tactics, even a different type of politics. Constructive rather than confrontational. It would help if Coalition politics were the norm, and for that we need to replace FPTP with a form of PR.
DPR Voting, of course.

Posted 9 July 2012
= Lords Reform
The semi open list voting system gives some advantage to party sponsored candidates and, some say, to the Liberal Democrats.

This party bias in the voting system should be balanced by allowing voters the choice of a short vote - 'Independent' - a vote for a raft of ‘official’ (quality assured) independent candidates sponsored by an independent peers appointments commission. (in addition to the 90 independents planned.)

Posted 2 July 2012
The Price of Inequality, by Joseph Stiglitz
This new book, suggesting that extreme disparities damage our society and economy, is currently getting much attention. It seems to me that money does motivate, so that salaries and bonuses are not necessarily bad. It is a question of degree. So while bonuses can help an organisation to be dynamic and successful, there is a level of reward beyond which people increasingly lose their moral compass, either in pursuit of personal gain or corporate gain.
The target must be to get the balance right.
Yes, those who break the law should be punished by the law, but we should not resort to scapegoating. Rather we should use the tax system to manage the inequalities within our economy by a tax on those companies that pay extreme salaries and bonus packages.

Posted 29 June 2012
Heavy rainfall seems to cause more trouble than it should. The implications are varied. At a simple level it emphasises the need to provide or maintain adequate ditches and culverts. It also calls into question our system of sewerage. Combining storm water drains and foul sewers seems a mediaeval concept. The result is that when we get excess rainfall sewage treatment can't cope with the extra volume and raw sewage is discharged untreated. It doesn't take much rain for this to happen.
We should also plan housing and construction more carefully, and less densely, and ensure that excess rain can escape or be absorbed. Planning needs to take into account that development in one place can cause flooding elsewhere. I suspect that, on this basis, much new housing might be considered unsustainable. In short we need to spend money on upgrading our infrastructure before we build.

May 2021

Our unstable Democracy

Dec 2020

for 2021

from Sept 2018

from the start

Blog history



Posted 28 June 2012
Barclays (and other banks)
The culture is all wrong, and that comes from the top. Bob Diamond should go, as should the bonus culture.
The only people who benefit from these huge salaries are the employees who receive these payments. The Government should act - these salary/bonuses are untenable. They corrode society and distort the economy, and they corrode private and corporate morality. The government should tax the companies who pay any employees more than £500K (Special employers NI contribution), along the lines described previously (see an earlier post ).

Posted 27 June 2012
Football, Politics and Education
Football is a great sport, dependent on two teams and one winner. Our electoral system is designed with football in mind. Like football, it can't really cope with either three or more teams or different teams that cooperate.
With our political system, Education gets the same treatment. First one team kicks it up to one end of the pitch and then the other team kicks it to the other end. Net result, a lot of energy expended, and the ball gets kicked about a lot. We need a different political system and a cooperative approach to education policy that has the backing of the majority, and a sustainable programme lasting 10 or 15 years..

Posted 18 May 2012
The Greek Electoral system
Greece is having problems forming a Government because there is no general or coherent agreement on what to do for the best about the issues of whether or not to back the austerity programme and whether or not to stay in the Euro. Changing the electoral system to give one party a clear parliamentary majority would not solve this problem. Any election result has to command popular acceptance.

An electoral system should reflect the views expressed the electorate. No system is perfect, but it has to be good enough to be acceptable. For example, an electoral system may shut out a small or an ‘extremist’ party when it is a small minority, and may kill it off. If not, the danger is that the party feeds on the sense of injustice without having its policies examined in parliamentary debate.

If the electoral system loses the confidence of the people, it has to be changed because the consequences are potentially dire.

Greece has largely lost confidence in its politicians and fair government, not its electoral system, and the prospects are ugly.

Posted 6 May 2012
Horses for courses - local elections
In case you were wondering, I don't think DPR Voting is really suitable for local elections. Having said that multimember wards with election by FPTP (as happens in many local elections) is just awful. A 25% share of a 25% turnout could conceivably give a party all the seats.

Posted 25 April 2012
Public Political Disillusionment: A Hansard Society study concludes that the public is disillusioned with politics and political parties.
A new study by the Hansard Society published today concludes that the public is disillusioned with politics and political parties. The research shows that less than half the population is now interested in politics at all and one in three is unlikely or certain not to vote at the next election.

I believe three steps would start to put things right (and so there is reason for optimism).

Reform party political funding
(limit £10 K from individuals, no donations from companies or organisations.)
We need smaller political parties with a DIY ethos that depend on their members.

Reform the voting system
Everybody should have a vote that makes a difference to the result of the election.
(Not impossible - in an opinion poll, every response makes a difference to the result.)

Reform the relationship between politicians, the media and the public.
(It’s in hand – the Leveson enquiry.)

Posted 15 April 2012
An article from Jason O'Mahony 'Just why are British conservatives against Proportional Representation anyway?'
Also on the theme of a FPTP system that no longer pleases anyone, and is increasingly out of touch with our multi stranded political landscape - . Would the 'dyed in the wool' supporters of FPTP find that a PR system such as MMP gives them a real political advantage?

Posted 15 April 2012
An interesting article from a Canadian Blogger 'What Makes for Better Politics?'
In Canada, there have been efforts to find a more proportional system than FPTP. STV and MMP have been debated but rejected.
Bruce Stewart suggests sticking with FPTP but increasing the number of MPs several fold.

This would certainly improve the degree of proportionality of FPTP, although whether increasing from 308 MPs to a House of Commons with 850-1,100 members would be acceptable to the Canadian people is another debate. It would certainly result in a considerable increase in the costs of the Parliament, the MPs and elections. It might make the parliament unmanageable, and require new accommodation, but the underlying electoral logic is undeniable.

We share the FPTP system with Canada. FPTP has some attractive advantages, but is far from a proportional system.

The Coalition plans to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. This will make the system even less proportional than it is at present, and makes it more likely that a future election will end in an even more grossly unfair result.
The contrarian reformer may just smile. The odds are long but this just might trigger enough outrage to see FPTP swept away.

Posted 10 April 2012
Radio 4 Public Philosophy: "Should a banker be paid more than a nurse?"
An interesting programme, but did it get to the nub of the issue?

A perfectly functioning market is the best way of setting the pay of an employed person (not perfect, but better than any other system). The problem is the market does not always function perfectly for various reasons eg monopoly, collusion.

Where the Government is the monopoly employer, the market can't function properly.
Bankers are an example where the the market is not functioning perfectly for reasons of collective self interest of the group involved.
Footballers' pay is a result of problems in the TV and broadcasting market, and restrictive collaboration by Football clubs.

The Government has a responsibility for taking steps to ensure as far as possible that markets function properly. Where this is not possible it should ensure that pay differentials are socially acceptable.
What is socially acceptable is a political decision any government has to take. If it does not, it risks social breakdown.

To limit pay differentials the Government can use the tax system, taxing the companies or organisation that pay salaries that abuse socially acceptable differentials.

Posted 1 April 2012
Bradford West "sound and fury signifying ...?"
I would not normally argue that a by-election is likely to have any long lasting significance. That is probably also true of Bradford West. However it does add some evidence to the suggestion that our major political parties in the UK have something of a problem.
They contest the middle ground. They tend to follow public opinion rather than lead, or at least they very rapidly change their policies to fall in with public opinion when it becomes apparent that they are out of step.

They are too cautious. It seems they are more concerned with winning public support (or at least not losing it) than they are about their policies and their underlying political philosophy.
The net result that they sound very similar.

A related consequence is that party membership is falling. This combined with the problems parties have with their sources of funding makes state funding of political parties the best and only honest solution. And yet the parties will not argue for this because they perceive it would be unpopular, and perhaps they fear they might not survive in the political party premier

One important underlying cause is our electoral system. When the winner takes all and minor parties are generally ignored, the only possible strategy is to appeal to the mass of the electorate, and hope to stay as one of the top two parties.

Our FPTP system only allows for two major parties. We need more choice. We need political parties – leaders not followers - that stand up for an idea they believe in despite public opinion, if necessary. Such a party is most likely to be a minority party.

To make this happen we need an electoral system where proper weight is given, both in parliament and by the media to the policies of minor parties, and coalition government incorporating minor parties is the norm, not the exception.

Posted 27 March 2012
Funding of Political parties
Some state funding of party political expenditure is essential. As far as possible it should be in kind, rather than cash. The value of such state funding should be proportional to voting in the previous election. Parties should depend on many small donations from individuals, rather than big donations from the few. There should be no donations from companies, organisations, or charities, but only from UK individual citizens. Why? The clue is in the word ‘democracy’.

At the same time, MPs should be paid more appropriately (ie more) but some of their expenses such as secretarial assistance, researchers, etc should be paid directly or in kind rather than cash.

Would this kill off one or more of the political parties? Quite possibly. Would it kill off the underlying philosophy, the raison d’etre of these parties. If they have any worth, it won’t, and it won’t kill off the reason for having political parties. Therefore it might well presage a painful but valuable process of political rebirth.

Posted 16 March 2012
Social Justice First
Fresh on the web.... DPR Voting on the Social Justice First blog


Posted 12 March 2012
Top salaries
It was interesting to see that Barclays were prepared to pay the tax bill for chief executive Bob Diamond. (FT March 10th)
This seems to strengthen the case for a tax on top pay to be paid by the companies that pay these very high pay packages.
I haven't yet heard an argument against the idea. On the contrary

It wouldn't affect most companies ie that don't pay their employees total packages of more than the threshold -(say £500K.)
It would not affect the individuals concerned because they don't pay the tax, so no motivation for them to emigrate.
It wouldn't affect the freedom of companies to pay their executives as highly as they want to, (but it would make it rather more expensive and difficult to justify to their shareholders. )
It would raise a lot of money for the treasury.

Companies might consider relocating overseas, but
a) The tax cost is not going to be that high compared with the cost of relocating the individuals
b) There is no incentive for the individuals to relocate
c) Boards would have to justify any decision to relocate to their shareholders.
One thing the companies would not be able to do would be to avoid the tax - a simple Employers NI contribution tax is not easy to avoid.

Posted 28 February 2012
Lords reform
Do we need Independent peers in the House of Lords? Please could we take a vote on that?

The system used to elect the House of Lords needs to be very different from that used for the Commons. PR Party List modified with the opportunity to vote for an independent slate of candidates has most advantages.
1 Wholly elected – a partially elected House is a bad compromise
2 An Independent List (candidates appointed by an independent commission) in addition to the Party lists would meet the need for an independent element in the House, and allow the public to vote to determine the size of it rather than having it predetermined and fixed for all time.
3 We don’t need constituency based peers – that’s the job of the MP.
4 PR List will never be used for the Commons. Vive la difference!
5 Power and patronage to the Party – yes, but you can vote independent.
6 PR list would reduce the amount of individual campaigning required.
Accountability – 15 years – yes, but make sure they can retire and be kicked out for dishonesty or poor attendance, or by a system of recall.

Posted 8 February 2012
Stephen Hester on the Today programme
'Today' on radio 4 had an the excellent interview with Stephen Hester.
The ‘Bonus’ row is not a witch hunt. It is not a row about individuals, or banks, or business. It’s not even about bonuses. It is, as the interviewer indicated, about the differential between top total pay and average pay in our society.
Government cannot stand back from this debate. It should lead, and take action, by putting in place a top pay treacle ceiling – an employment tax, payable by companies, based on top pay, ie packages over £500K.

Posted 26 January 2012
MPs workload and the number of MPs in the Commons
How do MPs cope with the correspondence from constituents? Some better than others. Clearly dealing with constituency business, whether correspondence, surgeries, or constituency related matters, is demanding. Reducing the number of MPs and thus increasing the average size of the constituency will make it more difficult.

In addition, the change will tend to make our non proportional electoral system even less proportional (fair) *. In practice because the sizes of constituencies are being equalised the short term effect will be to make it even less fair for the Lib Dems. As regards Labour and Conservative, Conservatives will gain and Labour will lose, but both hugely gain from using the FPTP system at the expense of the Lib Dems and other smaller nationwide parties.

Conversely increasing the number would make the system (a bit) more proportional (fairer). It would also make it easier for hard pressed MPs to keep up with constituency matters. This seems a dubious reform.

* If you are not sure about this, consider an extreme increase in numbers of constituencies. As the number of constituencies increases the FPTP system will tend to be more proportional as the number of voters in each constituency tends towards one. If every voter became an MP the parliament would be entirely proportional! Similarly if the number of constituencies is reduced, the system becomes even more unfair as the number of constituencies tends towards one, finally returning one MP and a one party government!

Posted 21 January 2012
Open Primaries

It is reported that the independent-mindedness of Totnes MP Dr Sarah Wollaston has put the Tories off their open primaries policy.

The aim of Open Primaries to re-engage the public with the political process should be applauded. The underlying problem is that Politics has become a top down activity. This combined with our electoral system leads to frustration and subsequent disengagement with the political process.

More independent-minded MPs could be part of the solution, but Open Primaries probably isn’t, because the FPTP voting system conflates the vote for the individual with the vote for the party. Knowing what political parties really stand for is difficult enough anyway. Removing the power from a political party to choose the candidate just makes this worse. The cost of running primaries also seems to be a step in the wrong direction.

A change to the electoral system, to one that encourages the election of more independent minded MPs, as well as independent MPs, is a better solution.

Posted 4 January 2012
Lords Reform - the 450.

It has been suggested by the Joint Lords Reform committee that the reform of the House of Lords should reduce the size of the House to 450 peers rather than 300. This seems an eminently reasonable amendment and, if it helps achieve a sensible system of reform, is to be welcomed.

However there is still a strong division on the topic of appointed and cross bench peers. I still hope the coalition will allow us to vote for Independent peers who would be selected by an independent commission. This would be good for democracy both in terms of electing the house, and to optimize its effectiveness.

I think the coalition, or rather Nick Clegg, is on the wrong track arguing for STV. Far better to choose Party List PR (including the Independent list) It is the most common form of PR and most appropriate for the second chamber. We don't need a constituency based election. Peers concerns and accountability should be purely national, not constituency. For constituency issues we have our MP, so lets maintain this difference between the two houses.

Posted 24 December 2011
= Significant current scandals, and those yet to come.

In no particular order

Top salaries and bonuses - boardroom and shareholder individual responsibility
The multiple between top and average pay
Lawyers fees - the cost of the legal process
Medical negligence claims against the NHS
Care and treatment in the NHS
"No win, no fee" personal injury compensation
Democracy and the voting system
Lords reform
Political party funding
The domestic energy market and pricing
The Tax system and its inefficiencies and complexities
Subsidies for new energy generation schemes
The amount of crime fuelled by Drugs
The availability of drugs in prison.
The power of the press barons over political parties, politicians and the police.
The power of the press to influence the National Agenda
The structure of the banking system.
Unsustainable business models, big money and corruption in sport

Posted 22 December 2011
= High salaries and bonuses - a solution.

The 'Today' programme on Radio 4 says that there have been no suggestions for how to solve the problem of very high salaries and bonuses. I disagree.

Firstly recognise that this is not just about banking. It is about rewarding different parts of our economy, and balance.
What is a sustainable difference between the average paid employee and the top paid? I suspect a multiple of something not much more than 20 is near the optimum. We are way over the top.

The Government should act because

1 People will not believe the Government when they say we are all in this together if they do nothing to address this issue. The Government will be blamed.
2 Very high salaries, judged by top salaries relative to average salaries, corrode our society, and could lead to even more social unrest.
3 These top salaries unbalance important drivers in our economy.

They encourage employment in financial services. There is less incentive for the best people to make a career in other economic sectors eg manufacturing. It does not encourage the small business start ups. There is less incentive for people to risk their own money by setting up their own business.

The Government has to lead. It should not regulate salaries - it can't set salaries - but it can use the tax system to good effect.

A new form of Employer's National Insurance should be payable at a special rate on all salaries over (say) £500K. The Tax should be payable by the company on the total salary package, with no offsets or allowances.
The rate could be introduced at a modest level and revised annually in the budget.

This tax does not single out bankers. It applies to all employees.
Any company can easily avoid the tax by not paying any salary packages above £500K.
If the company chooses to pay an employee at a rate above this figure the employee pays no extra tax. It is the company that pays.
It leaves the decision on top salaries where it should be, with the remuneration committees and shareholders. \

This combined with other suggestions for transparency in top salaries and reform of remuneration committees would have the effect of putting in a glass ceiling on top salaries, which could be adjusted to maintain a multiple with average wages.

A fiscally neutral solution: This tax increase could be balanced by a comparable reduction of employer's NI contributions for the lower paid.

DPR Voting - simple, practical electoral reform

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